Where do we go from here?
__—— April 2020 Life after Covid-19: The peak has passed in Australia, so thoughts turn to slowly relaxing the lockdown – very slowly, to avoid a second wave – that’s inevitable, but our hospital and testing facilities have been increased, so we should be able to control it. A vaccine for prevention is still months, perhaps years away, although it is looking more likely that one WILL be developed; still no effective treatment for infected patients (particularly elderly people with underlying medical vulnerability), and that’s probably more important than developing a vaccine, since we will have to live with Covid-19 outbreaks for a long time – perhaps even for years – so there’s no chance of relaxing the physical distancing measures yet.
Everyone now knows that things post-pandemic will not be like they were pre-pandemic. The gradual creep toward the global market-based economy now considered normal has been so slow (about a century to slowly develop) that nobody saw the dangers approaching. As citizens, we must keep up pressure on government to NEVER go back to the trading status quo that caused this. The pandemic has been a big economic and health hit, and we must learn from it... no country can afford to go back to life as it was before the pandemic (even politicians understand that!) – or we will just be caught again with the next new virus. And there WILL be new viruses:
The supply-chain argument: No more supplies of anything to be sourced all from one place like China or India for price reasons; manufacturers above some set size of production must be required to meet some regulated minimum percentage of local production in the SAME country that they are physically located, not affected by international trade deals, ‘free market’ pressure, or regarded as a form of unfair industry subsidy or trade tariff. It is simply in every county’s own interests, and every country should be doing it – price cannot be the only decision-factor. Even large corporations must be forced to spread their supply-chain for safety, and always include at least some local supply. China stands to lose something like 25-30% of its present proportion of world manufacturing, so is likely to oppose this vigorously. They will claim that it is entirely political, anti-Chinese, anti-communism, since they need the bulk of the world’s manufacturing to sustain their rapidly-growing economy. Without that rapid growth their economy will quickly stagnate, prices will rapidly increase, and they will threaten to retaliate militarily. India will be less affected, simply less able to grow their percentage of world supply. The main result will be that ALL countries will have to maintain at least some basic manufacturing capacity for MOST goods instead of relying entirely on cheaper international suppliers. Deciding what local manufacturing levels are safe will become a common political argument... and politicians will look for the safest choices from a political perspective, not a material, social or economic perspective. They always do, to avoid facing aspects of looming dangers that might have negative political implications. They will try to dodge the issues.
No more ‘just-in-time’ supplies – that’s been shown to be deadly, causing rapid economic collase in the event of any supply delay. That means warehousing for more expensive higher stock levels will be needed (benefit: more employment during an age when robotics is impacting all manufacturing and employment opportunities are shrinking). Unfortunately, as far more people are now buying goods online, most large domestic goods suppliers will start carrying warehouse stock in major cities only (Sydney and Melbourne for Australia) – local store branches won’t carry more stock than enough to supply foot-traffic trade only. You won’t be able to go to your local branch of a supplier and get exactly what you want – you’ll have to order it for later home delivery or shop collection, further reducing the difference between bricks-&-mortar shopping and online shopping... and further reducing the already-shaky viability of retail shops. So delivery will be the issue instead of stock. Wasteful.
Uni research on infectious diseases needs to be truly international, government-funded under some new ‘essential medical prevention’ classification and immune from political funding control, with support continuing well after any commercialization has happened. Can’t allow idiot politicians cutting medical funding for political reasons, even if political bias can be shown. That WILL happen – just live with it, dickheads.
Cruise ships, worldwide, have been shown to be floating incubators during a virus outbreak. Worse, a large proportion of their typical retirement-age passengers have been shown to be grossly irresponsible, ignoring all quarantine instructions and, in far too many cases, not regretting the misery they have caused – they just want to get back to more cruising. Both the cruise companies AND their customers have been shown to be at fault, and common ignorance is no excuse. Cruises will have to be much more tightly regulated, and both the cruise companies AND their self-interested clients will squeal like stuck pigs about that.
Airlines are an essential service for both passengers and freight. Governments need to accept that and take an equity interest in at least one airline in every country, like they do for rail networks. Australia, as a physically large country, needs at least two major airlines. The days of the wide-body passenger jet airliner may be numbered, though... more flights by smaller, narrow-body, more fuel-efficient jets is likely.
EVERY country must maintain manufacturing capacity for essential medical supplies to at least some minimum level, capable of increasing during an emergency, and not rely completely on international suppliers – once again, spreading the supply-chain, and price should not be the only criteria.
Chinese ‘wet markets’ were the source of the SARS virus (bats), and probably (but fairly surely) also the source of Covid-19 – most likely from bats again – so they HAVE to be either scrapped or highly regulated with medical safety the top priority. Because China is an authoritarian regime with heavily-regulated media and restrictions on public information, and does not allow foreigners unsupervised access to all areas, this will be hard to enforce. An old joke asking ‘Why do Chinese not play cricket?’ (answer: They’ve eaten all the bats.) takes on a new significance.
Physical distancing has been shown to be a good thing for cities, to avoid spreading all sorts of communicable germs, including regular bugs like ’flu, so we will probably see some relaxed form of that continuing, with more regular deep cleaning of public spaces to prevent accidental infections. So more people employed in public cleaning services. Less tightly-packed public facilities like sports stadiums – crowds of any sort will be regarded as risky. That will prove to be a planning problem for large sporting fixtures like the Olympics, going forward. Do sports stadiums with healthy physical distancing between seats, allowing only half the number of people, make any sense at all? There will be a further shift away from stadium-style sports attendance, to more TV coverage with only small crowds in physical attendance.
The pandemic has been the long-expected tipping point between bricks-&-mortar shopping and online shopping, so the capacity for home delivery services in all countries will have to be increased. Forget drone-style automated deliveries – just more drivers for small vans employed. Perhaps even smaller motorized scooter-type delivery vehicles as used in many Asian countries (only in densely-populated city areas, probably).