When the Covid-19 new coronavirus hit, the world as we knew it underwent some massive transformations. Today, it is a new world order that is testing our resilience as we realise that some things will never return to what we had previously construed as normal. It is a test like no other.
Covid-19 is testing the strength of all, including governments, medical, scientific and educational institutions, the global economy, the media and humanity in general. So, let’s look closely at the weight that has suddenly fallen on our shoulders.
Countries and the protocols and standards they adopt were the first to be tested. Questions have arisen. Which country acted promptly enough? China is reaping the fruits of its stringent but necessary precautionary measures, and so are Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong. Which country failed in applying the same? Italy, Europe and the US dithered, and they are now paying a hefty price.
What is more important, closing borders, stopping flights, or both? Though Canada has closed its borders with the US, this is easier said than done, as food and other necessities move constantly between the two countries.
Should a country ban public transportation, as the Philippines and China have done, or should it disinfect modes of transport? Should schools be closed, or are students better off in the school environment? While most schools across the world have been shuttered, Australian schools, for example, remain open.
How do governments assist those who have lost their source of livelihood? As millions begin to feel the pinch, governments have pitched in by providing support and suspending payments. Canada has taken the bull by the horns and acted swiftly to provide financial support for up to 15 weeks to laid-off and sick employees. In order to prevent lay-offs, it is providing struggling businesses with a subsidy equal to 10 per cent of employee wages.
Doctors, nurses and hospitals are being tested, too, and in a taxing way. Healthcare facilities are being strained to the maximum, and healthcare workers are threatened by exposure to the epidemic, while masks, screening tests, beds, sanitisers and even doctors may be unavailable.
Are the test kits worth the money? Note that the United States postponed such tests and is paying a high price for this today. The World Health Organisation (WHO) is urging all countries to bolster testing to contain the virus.
Have efforts to protect the elderly and those suffering from various illnesses intensified, or have they been left in the care of God? This is the scenario in Italy. Let’s hope everyone finds the wisdom to make the right decisions until the world overcomes this ordeal.
Even individuals have been tested in how they approach the crisis. Some are dealing with the virus as though they were invincible. They kiss and hug as they gallivant around, heeding no precautions and not keeping any social distance.
Others, fearing food scarcity and oblivious to the needs of others, have bought up supplies that would last them a lifetime. Greed has caused some merchants to up their prices, while others have stockpiled sanitisers and wipes to sell at higher prices.
As gatherings diminish in size and number, social distancing is followed, and venturing outside is saved for essentials, societies may morph into cocoons of their own making. Will we ever regain our previously gregarious nature or have we changed forever? I am sure that social distancing is here to stay for longer than Covid-19 itself.
The media are also being tested. Reporting on any news aside from Covid-19 has stopped, elevating the dread and panic level. Though this is understandable, it is also quite shocking.
There must be new problems occurring all over the world, but we aren’t being made aware of them. Warring regions such as in Libya, Syria and Iraq have become inconsequential; not much is published on the hurricanes and earthquakes that are striking one part of the world or another; and even the trade wars that were previously about to wrench the global economy apart now seem irrelevant.
If anything, this tells us that readers have long been coerced into learning only about what the media decides for them. Nothing is objective; everything is subjective.
As for the global economy, there has never been a disaster like this one. The 2008 economic crisis and the crisis that followed the events of September 2001 have paled in comparison to what is happening now. The collapse of the global economy seems inevitable.
When a vaccine against the Covid-19 virus is discovered, the world will see another test. Will countries cooperate and support each other by providing the vaccine for all, or will some reserve it for the highest bidder?
The German Ministry of Health has confirmed a report saying that US President Donald Trump offered a billion dollars to a company called Curevac in Germany to purchase exclusive rights to a vaccine it was developing against Covid-19. This left the world stunned.
This virus is a strenuous test for us all, and overcoming it will prove to be a steep uphill climb. If nothing else, this crisis has served as a reminder that the human race is not invulnerable, and we all need to stick together to avoid the downfall of us all.
How long will it take the world to return to the normality that no one appreciated at the time but that everyone aspires to now? Hopefully, the nightmare will dissipate at some point. But by then, much of what we took for granted will have changed, making us reassess our ways across the board.
At that point, we will know if the new Earth, the post-Covid-19 one, will be an improved one, or whether it will be the same planet with all its mistakes and sorrows.
The writer is the author of Cairo Rewind on the First Two Years of Egypt’s Revolution, 2011-2013.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 March, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly