Post-pandemic life may not be the same in the world (AFP)
Governments now keep devising ways and means to opening up their economies
Likewise, COVID-19 is likely to alter global economic development models, at least in the short-term
COVID-19 continues to take its toll all over the world, bar a few countries. The total or partial lockdown in most countries still remains, and the prolonged home stay has become something sickening to people. A few countries including Sri Lanka have managed to prevent the community transmission of the disease. In Sri Lanka, despite a spike in the number of cases, the disease has been confined to identified clusters. It is obviously bound to take a long period, may be more than a year, for any country to achieve zero case levels. In fact, the total eradication would be possible only in the event of the development of a vaccine, which is at experimental level.
Accordingly, the governments across the world now keep devising ways and means to opening up their economies while keeping the threat from COVID-19 at a minimum possible level. Sri Lanka is no exception. As such, plans are afoot in Sri Lanka to resume normal economic activities and forge ahead albeit taking health precautions - social distancing in main method.
Post-pandemic life may not be the same in the world and people will be compelled to forego what they would otherwise desire to do under normal circumstances. It will be impossible for people to undertake international travel except in the case of urgent and emergency matters. International tourism is going to be the hardest hit in this case because countries, though opened up, will not entertain international arrivals for some time. It will be a major hit on the global economy recovery in the post COVID-19 context. Tourism accounts for ten percent of jobs worldwide. It was one of the most visible growth areas in Sri Lanka after the war ended in 2009.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization said international tourist arrivals would drop by 30 percent worldwide this year with a corresponding loss of US $ 450 billion. It is a colossal loss which the world, reeling under the impact of COVID-19, cannot afford to undergo. Therefore, pressure will build on world governments to evolve a political response to recovery.
Probably, international tourist arrivals will be allowed by the respective countries subject to strict health measures. On-arrival health checks will be conducted in such a situation, and tourists would not be allowed to crowd popular sites. During the outbreak of the pandemic, aircraft were seen as the worst carriers of the disease. The outbreak also started in Sri Lanka mostly with imported cases.World attention has been drawn to disinfect aircraft in the future. The University of Colombia in the US has discovered that ultraviolet light can destroy the virus inside airplanes. If this is developed and commercially available, the airline industry would probably use it to boost the confidence of prospective passengers in the future. An invisible droplet from a single cough can otherwise spread the virus.
Likewise, COVID-19 is likely to alter global economic development models, at least in the short-term. Actually, barriers on international trading activities will encourage governments to adopt nationalisation of their economies instead of liberalisation. Already, Sri Lanka has evolved programmes to restrict imports of certain essential food commodities in a move to boost local produce. The government’s intention is to be self-sufficient in agricultural products such as turmeric and black gram, instead of importing them. Some people see this as a revisit to the economies policies of the 1970s. International supply chains of Sri Lankan exports like garments have fractured at the moment due to the global pandemic. Alongside this, there are signs of markets expanding for some traditional exports like tea and rubber. Tea is considered a healthy drink which boosts one’s immune system, a solace in times of fear of getting infected by the coronavirus. Also, it is predicted that the global demand for rubber would increase because of the need to manufacture rubber- based products such as hand gloves and other personal protective equipment for frontline workers fighting COVID- 19.
Tourism accounts for ten percent of jobs worldwide
Democracy under strain
Democracy is also under strain because of restrictions placed to halt the contagion. Elections have been declared in Sri Lanka, but authorities are in a dilemma about being unable to conduct polling as planned because of the corona crisis. Elections are a vital ingredient of any democratic society. But COVID-19 stands in the way of realising the democratic voting rights of people at this hour. As things stand at the moment, it is unlikely that polling can happen on June 20 as planned. Delayed polls mean depriving people of their right to exercise their franchise. But it can’t be helped because of the public health situation of the country.
However, South Korea managed to conclude elections successfully amid the corona crisis. The presidential election is scheduled to be conducted in the US in November, this year. According to the law of that country, elections should be concluded in November and the President-elect sworn in January, the next year.
In the US, over one million people have fallen sick with coronavirus. Unless the crisis dissipates soon, that country will face immense difficulty in conducting elections.
World powers are also racing against time to manufacture a vaccine against the virus. The experiments undertaken by countries like the UK and China have already made some progress. There are other countries such as the US and India that have undertaken the same task. The entire world will be grateful to whoever invents it first. The world, battered by COVID-19, won’t be the same when it comes out of the crisis. This is the worst ever crisis to hit the world after the World War II. A global, collective approach will be evolved for sure to bounce back from the disaster.