As governments around the world are preparing to exit social lockdown measures introduced to restrict the spread of COVID-19, they are aware that a second and third wave of infections are an unavoidable reality.

With this in mind, chief medical adviser to the British government, Chris Whitty, says instead of becoming clearer, the inherent vagaries in the current pandemic are making it harder to determine a firm exit strategy from some aspects of social distancing and socially disruptive measures will remain in force for the rest of the year.

If people are hoping it’s suddenly going to move from where they are in lockdown to where suddenly all restrictive measures are gone, that is a wholly unrealistic expectation. The question is what is the best package? How does a government negotiate a trade-off between social and economic realities and certain death in the form of the ongoing pandemic for which there is no cure and no vaccine?

The ideal exit would be a vaccine, and effective drugs so that people stop dying of this disease even if they catch it. The probability of having those any time in the next calendar year are incredibly small.

While the social and psychological impact of the pandemic on the lives of people around the world will be felt for generations to come, more immediate concerns for millions of employees is the fragility of their jobs and businesses.

Director for Sustainability and Investors Relations at Eagle High Plantations in Indonesia, Dennys Collin Munang, says for those who were just surviving before the crisis, things will never be the same. Many in the informal economy have lost much of their income during the somewhat indefinite period of the lock downs. The stress of dealing with the economic impact of the crisis is another concern that must be dealt with.

Governments have come up with lists of essential services or businesses. These of course, include the police utilities and healthcare. Other jobs or services that are equally essential in this crisis are farmers, farm labourers, manufacturers of food and beverage products and construction workers involved in essential health and related projects relevant to the coronavirus crisis. You need the whole supply chain to work to get the farm products in rural areas to urban dwellers. Agriculture is increasingly being recognised as perhaps the most critically important industrial sector after transport and distribution.

While essential services will be managed and maintained and the needs of their workers addressed, president of Healthcare and Life Sciences Infosys Limited, Mohit Joshi, says there will be paradigm shifts, as opposed to just existing trends either accelerating or decelerating, business and business methodology will irrevocably change.

Resilience, agility and digital key to business success

  • Businesses that use cloud computing will not buckle under the pressure of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Further automation and artificial intelligence will enhance the resilience of supply chains.
  • Successful businesses will have a combination of resilience and agility.

COVID-19 is putting the global economy into a tailspin. Many countries are heading for very sudden and unprecedented recession. This crisis will catalyse some huge changes. Few industries will avoid being either reformed, restructured or removed. Agility, scalability and automation will be the watchwords for this new era of business, and those that have these capabilities now will be the winners.

One could see the current times as the first real test of the digital-first business mantras that have been extolled over the first part of this century. COVID-19 will force a rebirth of many industries as we all sit at home in lockdown, re-assessing and re-imagining modes of consumption, supply, interaction and productivity.

The shift from cash to digital payments is accelerating. Many countries have lifted contactless payment limits which has major implications for: the resilience of payment forms – young and old; for banks’ business models; and society, as we work to ensure no-one is left behind in an increasingly digital economy.

In the workplace we’re already seeing a super-charging of the nascent bring your own device (BYOD) trend in business technology. As people scramble to work and socialise remotely, previously niche tools such as Zoom, Slack, Microsoft’s Teams, and even the Houseparty app, are suddenly supporting millions of personal and corporate interactions every minute.

We need to be better prepared for future pandemics

Turkish scholar, Burhanettin Duran, says the world needs to prepare for future pandemics – even if we defeat the coronavirus today, the likelihood of second and third waves of infection suggests that total normalisation won’t happen overnight. We must be ready for restrictions, followed by some normalisation, followed by fresh restrictions.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger argues that humanity must get ready to transition into the post-coronavirus world. He maintains that it won’t be enough for governments around the world to develop national responses alone. He warns that failure to promote global cooperation will lead to the worst outcome for individual countries and the international community as a whole. To be clear, how humanity responds to the crisis itself largely charts their course for its aftermath.

Post-pandemic power struggles on the cards?

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to impact the international system no less than the world wars. What remains unclear is whether the post-pandemic power struggle will lead to fresh conflicts. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is calling on European Union members to allocate additional funds to help pandemic-stricken nations recover from the resulting economic crisis. The idea of a European Marshall Plan makes sense on paper, but who’s going to pay for it? The obvious candidates are the U.S., China and Germany. If U.S. president, Donald Trump, gets re-elected in November, he probably won’t be interested. If the Democratic presidential candidate wins, Washington could pursue global leadership anew. What remains unclear, however, is if the U.S. economy will be powerful enough to take the incoming president where he wants to go.

If China, the second candidate, were to make an effort to save Southern Europe’s devastated economy, it would be a full-blown push for global leadership. However, Beijing seems unlikely to devise such an audacious plan, so long as its economy is slowing down and failing to create sufficient jobs.

Finally, Germany would have to shoulder the EU’s entire burden if it were to implement something akin to the Marshall Plan as a European power. A financial burden without the benefit of political leadership, however, it is hard to say whether a German politician could rise to that challenge in the post-Merkel era.


Suggested reading: