For months countries across the world have been divided on how to deal with covid-19, and still today, not everyone is on the same page regarding the effectiveness of certain policies. There are a bunch of really good articles by Tomas Pueyo (https://medium.com/@tomaspueyo) that show what approaches are effective scientifically and economically, but I want to take a closer look at the diverging perspectives on the issue.
On one side we have individuals and countries who downplay or underestimate the health issues associated with the disease and want to go on as if nothing happened, and on the other side we have people who prioritize health over economy or complete disregard the economic effect of lockdown policies and the pandemic. As we can see by looking at both perspectives, both have some truth in them, even if their overall message can be distorted or ideologic. But with most of all, there are certain motives, ideas and ideologies driving the views.
This start with people who live paycheck to paycheck and now lost their job. They have to give up their previous lives to survive and are hit the hardest by the policies. Without a job, they face way bigger problems than getting sick with the disease. Of course these people would want the policies to loosen at any cost, because right now, they are not even able to take care of themselves, and neither their community nor government gives them adequate support. Can you fault these people for their perspective? Absolutely not.
But we also have many people who don’t see the virus as a big issue. Many because they are young and healthy, which makes it less likely for them to have any serious issues if they should get it. Many because they believe the virus is not as harmful and the actions being taken against it are overblown. Others strongly favor the economy and see economic growth as the only important factor for human well-being. They brush off the number of infections and deaths and the unprepared government and healthcare system, because it would mean stopping or slowing down their loved economy.
Should people drift into poverty because of the policies? Should people stop being socially active and should we push businesses into bankruptcy and debt? It is easy to understand those perspectives and agree with them, but they only represent one side of the issue.
The virus might not affect younger people as much, but the older generations are part of our society as well. And eventually the young will become the old. The strong have to take responsibility and protect the weak, because once the rules change, the once strong want to be protected like any other.
The virus might not be as harmful as SARS, MERS, Ebola or many other diseases, but it is still very new and unknown. The longer it stays around, the higher the possibility for mutations or unforeseen health problems.
To keep everyone safe, drastic measures are appropriate to slow the spread of the virus. And with a relatively unknown virus and unprepared governments around the world, it is understandable to rather play it safe than to ignore the issue.
And again, should we let people die if only a few policies would prevent most of the damage? Should we let an unknown virus spread all over the world that could result in unforeseen consequences only few months later, way worse that the current ones?
All these perspectives have truth in them, which makes it so important to filter through all of them to reach a common understanding. This might be easier with this issue, as it is discussed around the world and you can quickly learn and adapt to new changes, but it is the mindset of being open to those ideas that gets you most of the way.
And just as we struggle on an individual level to understand our world, our government are trying the same, but often with way less perspective and a lot slower than the average person with internet access. The preparedness for a pandemic like the current one was lacking in almost every country around the world. Only the few that already were faced with an outbreak before, had clear guidelines that they could follow. Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore. But even those are being stressed under the current circumstances. Singapore opened up again way too early and in South Korea the cases are slowly rising again over the past weeks.
And these different government strategies can be seen as perspectives as well. Perspectives we have to understand and learn from. The strategies for such an event were publicly available and easily implementable, but just as many people share the perspective of the virus being no issue, just as many do not act before the problems arise in their own backyard. China might be far away when you are looking at the horizon, but for most of the world available within 24 hours by plane. Our world is connected and will get more connected over the coming decades. If we do not embrace perspectives from all over the world, we will get left behind and, in the end, complain how much better and easier it was all those years ago, because we refuse to adapt to the changing world.
But what such a crisis also shows, is the robustness of our systems. Our government, our infrastructure. It shows the bottlenecks that have to be fixed and addressed. Not only as a nation, but internationally, globally. Our coherent problem is the rise in poverty and the loss of jobs all over the world. Our system is not prepared for millions of people suddenly being and staying unemployed for many months or even years. And while some countries like the US, Korea and Japan give out unconditional disaster relief payments, other countries are not.
In countries like Germany, you only get a loan and limited support if you are broke or already in debt. For students in Germany that lost their side income over the past months, there is only the possibility to get a loan and therefore accumulate debt, or receive a maximum of 500€ for three months if your bank account is under 100€. If your bank account is already under 100€, those 500€ won’t cut it. In most major cities it is barely enough to cover living expenses.
While every country and even states within the country are making their own decisions, they are very rarely looking over national standards. It does not mean that we have to adapt Taiwan’s strategy 1:1, but we at least can have a look and learn from how it turned out.
Because if we do, and this does not only include the policies for a pandemic, we can speed up the rate at which our world improves. If we look at successful policies from other countries for the same problems we are facing, we can find ways to improve, even without fully implementing their strategies. We can take the best aspects, try them out and if it works, let others know. The faster our global neighbors grow alongside us, the sooner all of us can work together hand in hand on issues that affect everyone.