By KIM WON-SOO
Preventing the worst-case scenario is still mission possible if countries work together. The novel coronavirus has swept across the world with breathtaking speed like a tsunami. This invisible havoc-maker is having an impact on the world of a magnitude unseen since World War II.
Within a month of its outbreak being first noticed in December 2019, the first wave of the virus tsunami hit China and its neighbors in East Asia. Within another month, the second wave was hitting Europe and North America even harder. It is now spreading all over the world. To contain the further spread, many cities, provinces and even whole countries, one after another, have been locked down, in a manner never seen before, even during wartime.
The situation will only get worse before it gets better, as the virus is clearly the worst global health crisis in the post-WWII period. It is also likely to trigger the worst economic crisis unless it can be swiftly checked.
There are still many unknowns about the virus’ spread and mutation trajectory. Uncertainty breeds fear, and fear is at the heart of the unfolding dual health-economic crisis.
Due to uncertainty, a number of scenarios are being projected about its future course. The best-case scenario predicts the virus may die down toward the summer in the Global North, thus becoming seasonal. But the worst foresees the virus migrating to the Global South then swinging back to the Global North the next winter. If this happens, the virus may well gain strength through further infections and mutation, as the coping capacity of the Global South is generally weaker than that of the Global North. If new drugs for vaccination and treatment are not made available by that time, its impact on the global economic and social fabric will be far worse, triggering a deeper global recession. The worst-case scenario is the outbreak will push the whole world into a depression like that in the 1930s.
So our mission is clear. We need to try everything possible to prevent the worst-case scenario from happening. It is a huge challenge. But it is doable if we all join hands.
All humanity are in this fight against the virus together no person or country is immune from this viral attack. Forced isolation is not a durable solution in the age of high connectivity and interdependence. Therefore, helping one another is not charity but an investment in our own futures. If we do not help others to stem the virus, most likely it will return to haunt us.
Unfortunately, however, the international reality stands far away from this requirement. International responses have varied from country to country.
Now is the time to turn the tide away from uncoordinated unilateral actions to those of global solidarity. All countries will benefit from learning from the trials and errors of others. Best practices can be pooled for all countries. The sooner this is done, the better. Benefits to be drawn from best practices are evident from the fact that countries in East Asia generally weathered the first wave of the novel coronavirus tsunami better than the countries hit by the second wave. This is mainly thanks to the better preparedness built on the lessons learned from the earlier outbreaks of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002-03 and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak in 2015.
There is no time to be wasted playing a blame game. The world leaders must get their act together urgently before it is too late. But sadly, there is a serious deficit in global governance to enable the collective actions necessary to help one another.
The G20 leaders’ videoconference on March 26 was a welcome first step to remedy this shortfall. Their sustained leadership will be crucial in bridging the deficit in global governance and facilitating a global action plan.
Here are a few items which require urgent joint action and collaboration: First, expediting research and development of new and safe drug solutions for vaccination and treatment, safeguard/quarantine measures to minimize the risk of new waves of infection and guidelines for safe travel.
Second, pooling best practices and lessons learned for more effective prevention, mitigation and containment of the virus, providing technical assistance for early warning, prevention and response, and preparing international aid response in advance of any health emergencies in the Global South unfolding in a manner going beyond their coping capacities.
–The Daily Mail-China Daily news exchange item