Since we last posted about coronavirus and travel the situation has changed for the worse and has begun to impact more and more of our lives directly.
This situation does change daily, so please follow Interfor on LinkedIn or Facebook to stay updated. Watching the virus spread across the globe has been akin to watching a slow-moving train wreck. The virus has spread and entrenched itself in places like South Korea, Iran, Italy, and now the United States. Outside of China, Italy has had the most amount of deaths associated with the virus (but that is up to debate as it is widely believed Iran is lying about its numbers).
As of this writing, the numbers stand at the reported cases exceeding close to 111,644 (and growing) infected and 3,884 dead. This has clearly moved from being a China problem to becoming a world problem. To track the numbers you can click here.
There has been less news about how the virus has paralyzed the Chinese economy; the Chinese government claims they have been able to control the spread of the virus. We do not know if this is true, but if the Chinese government has been able to stop the virus’s spread, now democratic countries must figure out how to fight the spread of the virus using the tools we have. An example of a challenge democracies may face happened recently here in the Northeast. A New Hampshire woman who was told to self-quarantine because she was suspected to have the virus broke that quarantine by attending a work function. In a place like China she would most likely have been put to death for putting her colleagues at risk. What are we going to do in America when someone breaks a quarantine? Fine them, or imprison them?
What is unique and shows the differences across the globe is how countries, both democracies and dictatorships are handling the virus’s spread. This has been a major challenge for countries such as South Korea, Italy, and Japan in what looks increasingly like a pandemic. Cases have been surging in Italy and South Korea despite quarantines. While the health care systems of these countries may be taxed, they are still wealthy countries and will be able to cope and treat those infected with the virus.
What is most concerning at this point is Iran and the spread of the virus within its borders. China is an example of how an AI and drone powered surveillance state has been able to contain the virus (so they claim). Iran is an example of politics and religious belief dictating the response to this crisis. Once the outbreak started, instead of limiting the area around Qom (where the virus originated) and closing it off, the clerical elite chose to keep the area open. Their belief was that the area was a place of healing. The sacred area itself is tight and confined, with worshippers practicing the custom of licking the area with their tongues. The situation has deteriorated even further with 10% of the Iranian parliament being infected with the virus. Along with that, Shiite pilgrims from across the Middle East all returned to their countries of origin spreading the disease.
Fighting the virus into the future
No one is certain if the virus will go away with the warm weather, and when a vaccine will be available (or how much it would cost). Based on what many experts are stating we are probably a year out until something will be on the market. There is so much we do not even know about the virus, including the mortality rate, which is being disputed. The fact that many of those infected have mild symptoms, or do not even know they have the virus is not helping to contain it.
Western and developed countries have the infrastructure to handle an outbreak, but it is taxing healthcare systems. In underdeveloped countries an outbreak is much more concerning. While global healthcare systems are resilient, with so many infected, they are facing an unprecedented challenge.
The Global Economy
There are two key parts to consider, the virus itself, that while deadly would not handicap an economy, and the fear around the virus. The fear is manifesting itself in ways such as how the stock market is reacting, people hoarding supplies, services reducing..
Some industries are indeed being decimated such as travel, tourism, and the conference industry. Global supply chains are also being disrupted, but it seems as if the Chinese government has done its part to get things up and running. Not everyone is a loser though; the environment took a breather as industry in China paused for two months. Other industries such as telecommunications, digital, and medical supplies are doing well, and a coronavirus economy is developing.
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