Saturday, 21 March 2020

Covid-19 – The opportunity that lies in every crisis

The Covid-19 virus has hit the world with a force perhaps greater than WWII. The world is closed and people are out of work and it seems that our health system is struggling to cope, at least in some countries. Our world has changed; there are lessons to be learnt and opportunities to seize upon. The big question is whether our politicians will make the right decisions?
This virus, which originated in Wuhan –China, has attacked the world like a nuclear bomb. Those not directly affected are hangered down in their homes. European streets look ghost towns. Canada and the U.S have declared their borders closed except for essential transportation. There are few planes in the sky, and most hotels and eateries are closed. Schools and corporations are now operating in cyberspace. The entire world’s health system is under siege and medical shortages are being experienced. In other words the pandemic is real and panic has stricken the world.
Governments around the world have for the most part reacted to alleviate the hardships caused by the pandemic. Some better than others, Taiwan and Singapore seem to have reacted quickly and averted mass infections. China where it all started is entering a phase of fewer infections due to their autocratic reaction which saw the use of the army and forced isolation. Unfortunately for the Western world, our leaders have been less opened to drastic measures. Delays in closing borders, the use of democratic self-isolation and fewer testing may be the cause of the rising number of cases and deaths. While I believe that we are equipped to surmount this disaster, it will take some time to get back to normality. Are the decisions made by our leaders going to protect us in the future? Or are we going to see changes that may be used to make our world better and more efficient?
Covid-19 is a health issue, but it is affecting every aspect of our lives. To take a page from the left: “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” A crisis always provides challenges and opportunities, and we should seize the day. Governments are currently focused on two challenges –health and finance, but they should also come with strategies for the long term. An analysis of the cause an effect of this pandemic should lead us to many opportunities and there are many opportunities for the world.
On a global level, let us acknowledge that Trump’s adversarial position towards China is now being proven right. For years China has been building itself into a position to be the world’s leader. Their preferential trade recognition and the use of their cheap labor, has placed the rest of the world in a positon of reliance which is now gone too far. The vast majority of basic pharmaceutical ingredients come from China. The world trade depends very much on goods produced in China. The western world obsessed with climate change, have shifted many of their productions to China, while reducing their carbon footprint they have also increased China’s CO2 emissions. So where is the gain? In fact in the long run it has been a net loss for the industrialised world, now so dependent on China. Trump’s tariffs may not be the preferred means of getting the world economy in good shape, but it certainly exposed China for what the regime is all about. Governments trying to set fiscal and monetary policies to avert a depression may well have to consider their relationship vis-à-vis China. As deficit spending becomes the norm, governments should also have long term strategies to deliver services in alternative means.
As self-isolation becomes the norm rather than the exception; we see opportunities in many sectors of the economy. Fast food and groceries need more workers for delivery of their goods. The internet is being used to continue work from home and deliver classes to students isolated at home.
Covid-19 has exposed many of our problems, and yet we have the opportunity to move forward with new ways of delivering services. For years I have advocated for the increase use of the internet to provide better education. Now that classes have started to be delivered in cyberspace it is time to look at making online delivery more permanent. Kindergarten to grade 7 should have more face-to face contact because in these formative years basic education and social skills are important. Once they have been prepared grades 8-12 should use the internet to greater use. They would require 3 days in school and the rest can be done at home with guidance from teachers via the internet. A change in education delivery may not come immediately, but we now have the opportunity to experiment, learn and adapt. We will need to increase broadband. Money saved from brick and mortar schools can easily be transferred to investment in cyber delivery. Fewer teachers may be needed, but childcare services may have to be improved.
Healthcare in Canada has been shown to be less capable, despite the hard work of medical professionals. The idea that we continue to insinuate that our system is the best in the world it cannot be further from the truth. We spend a lot of money and yet we do not get the care we should receive. The idea that privatization should not be part of the system is erroneous. Basic services should be covered and there should be a choice allowed for people who can afford them. Unions stand in the way of progress, and we should find ways of delivering services in a more efficient manner. The use of doctor/patient interaction by means of the internet is welcomed but we should limit this practice to just minor ailments. In fact there are too many instances where patients just go to the doctor or hospitals for minor issues. Master nurses and pharmacists can help alleviates the burden put on doctors and hospitals. We can no longer be at the mercy of healthcare unions to find better surgery wait times.
Covid-19 has placed Canada in a very precarious financial bind. Trudeau’s affinity for deficits and his obsession with U.N policies has virtually crippled the economy. With only 1.6% of the world’s carbon emission, his decision to curb the expansion of the oil and gas industry has created havoc in Western Canada. His reconciliation policy has divided the country and created a movement of lawlessness among certain groups. His self-isolation, sic – ‘hiding’ has demonstrated that Trudeau is not fit to lead this country. The current financial crisis was already in motion due to his policies against the oil industry. Canada’s economy was already contracting before Covid-19 or the oil war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The opportunity is for the country to seek a new government, but that will require other political parties to stand up and be counted.
As we search for solutions and opportunities, government leaders must reassure the citizenry and encourage calm. The media must stop its sensational and bias reporting which causes more panic than reassurance. The public must refrain from panic buying, which creates unnecessary shortages when in fact there is no problem with the supply chain. We must all do our part to get through these unprecedented and difficult times. Collaboration may well get us through this within weeks instead of months- Do your part, stay well and healthy, and be opened to opportunities and change.

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