A letter by JM BUSHA 54 founder, Joseph Busha.
COVID19 – THE SOCIAL IMPACT
The Corona Virus, COVID19, started in China, Wuhan province late in 2019. From February 2020, it spread like wild fire across Europe with alarming rates of infections and deaths in Italy and Spain before the USA became the epicentre in rates of increase in both confirmed positive cases and deaths.
COVID19 is another disruptive and destructive pandemic to emerge out of China after the 1346 bubonic plaque – the Black Death that lasted 4 years killing an estimated 50-200 million people. Europe’s population was halved during that period.
The focus of this article is not on the cause of the virus or its cure. We leave that to the scientists. The focus is on the negative impact of COVID19 on the world as we know it today. The severity can only reasonably be quantified after at least two years. Nothing in recent history has brought the world to a standstill, complete halt than this pandemic. Two-year old children stopped going to early learning school centres and an eighty-five-year-old stopped walking for their early morning exercise. The change was as sudden as a lightning strike.
The most devastating impact is the untimely loss of lives. One death is one too many. Many people have lost their lives and more will before a quicker, responsive cure is developed or found. Anxiety, fear and devastation that gripped individuals were immeasurably immense.
The truth is COVID19 has revealed how vulnerable the human race is, the shortcomings and wide inequality gap and in other many aspects. In this article, we look at how education, jobs, businesses, social life structures, travel and migration have been impacted and the consequences.
First, education. In today’s world, literacy and education are the passports to the first door of opportunities. This is well understood and accepted, but here are some questions: Who is going to get the education? Is it all - the poor and the rich parents’ child? What form is the education is going to take: home schooling versus distance learning or e-learning (video zoom classroom)? In the end, the answers to these questions or conversations are reduced to the “haves” (rich) and “have-nots” (poor) class scenario. And it is clear that the “haves” will be less affected, and we see why below.
Classrooms have been closed. Children cannot go to school. And there are two alternatives: home e-learning and private teacher schooling. The “haves” (rich) have electricity, computers and data for connectivity. Simply put, they have the money and infrastructure to continue learning. They will have tennis courts, swimming pools and enough space to continue doing extra mural activities at their homes. These all matter in the education and development of a child. The majority rural and urban poor do not have the facilities to continue with schooling. They live on a dollar per day. And the connectivity data costs a dollar per thirty (30) minutes. For the poor, there are no choices – its survival (food) versus data (education).
Science students require laboratories with equipment and tools necessary for practical lessons, experiments. This cannot happen in homes. The infrastructure is not there. This is the challenge to the students, parents, teachers and governments.
Second, Social life structures. One of the measures that were taken to curb the spread of the virus was social distancing. Public gatherings got prohibited. Not more than fifty (50) people were allowed
to attend a funeral or a church service. People were discouraged from being close to each other at the drop of a pen. No handshakes. Social distancing, washing of hands and wearing face masks were enforced.
Movement of people by feet, car, bus or plane was abruptly stopped. Factories and generally all retail shops – clothing, electrical and other except food retailers were closed. Restaurants were people would sit, dine and socialise usually were considered non-essential services and could be luxuries of the past. What awaits the hospitality industry and associated services in the value chain is not a guess but a reality – jobs, many jobs will be made redundant. Exercising gyms and all sporting activities – contact and no-contact sport were also affected. Thus, there was no economic activity at all for at least one month in most developed countries.
Third and last, economies. Jobs and industries got classified as essential and non-essential. At last COVID19 brought the realisation that the most lowly-paid workers – farm workers and social work professionals which include children and old-age caregivers, nurses, doctors, police, soldiers, cleaners and the truck driver or delivery man or woman are unquestionably important and central to life. Their services were considered essential and could not be stopped. Nurses and doctors risked contracting the virus as they raced to treat patients.
Post COVID19, what will the air-travel, hospitality, retail, sporting and education industries look like. They will never be the same again. There will be changes to business models – prioritisation: production, beneficiation, logistics and inventory. Efficiency through joint-ventures, shared services and co-operations will drive business profitability and survival. Businesses are the heartbeat of economies.
What about under-developed and developing countries’ economies? Africa? Many African countries had no economic models working or to present. African leaders and the countries they “rule” relied heavily on Western countries and China to provide financial aid, technical assistance and finished goods.
What about the pace of globalisation? The movement of people, goods and free flow of services across countries, seas and continents will change. Given the nationalistic positions taken by the UK (Brexit) and the USA - immigration, human rights, inequality and global trade are going to difficult to balance. The gap between the rich and the poorer countries will grow and more so in Africa. As African countries try to survive, economic colonisation is going to accelerate. While superpowers will be fighting for domination, Africa will be singing with a begging bowl for food and aid – financial aid, used and unused equipment and goods.
The consequences of the Corona Virus – inequality, unemployment, voluntary liquidation of companies, budget deficits and trade deficits will remain with us for many years to come. The true impact will only be quantified in at least two years from now.