“When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters- one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.”~ John F. Kennedy
The world is facing another global pandemic caused by a deadly virus being termed as the Corona Virus (COVID- 19) which had its outbreak in Wuhan City, China. The current rate of spread of this virus in the world succinctly suggests that, in the contemporary times of globalisation, the international community is at a higher risk than it was ever before. Given the huge diversity in the world population and vast dissimilarities between the social and income standards of the people, pandemics like these do not affect the population uniformly be it the social implications caused by a resource gap or the economic encumbrance that arises due to wide closure of industries and suspension of the economic activities causing loss of jobs at all levels. Therefore, the question of how effectively the governments of different countries respond to such disastrous outbreaks and what should be their effective and inclusive strategies to maintain the socio-economic equilibrium cannot be ignored at all.
In a less developed world, due to lack of information and sufficient medics, every pandemic would cost millions of deaths around the world. Closing of borders, suspension of International flights followed by restrictions on domestic mobility were one of the very first measures taken by the international community. Different countries have so far responded in their way and capacity. For instance, some of them had a dozen cases initially but it sparked to thousands in no time forcing the governments to take strict actions. Entire cities, regions, schools and universities are closed, and all economic, cultural and social activities have come to a stop. Overall, there has been a huge difference in how the coronavirus crisis has evolved in different countries.1
China is the country where the COVID-19 virus has reportedly been originated. Although, the health regulations of the WHO require that the countries report such outbreaks to the international organisation for assistance in the surveillance but the Chinese government did not report to the WHO until 3 months of the deadly outbreak.2 This was certainly reckless on their
1 Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 91. Data as received by WHO from national authorities by 10:00 CEST, 20 April 2020
2 Laura H Kahn, “Commentary on The SARS, MERS and novel coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemics, the newest and biggest global health threats: what lessons have we learned? A-One Health approach to coronaviruses”, International Journal of Epidemiology, dyaa071.
part which contributed to its 8-month cumulative total of 8096 laboratory-confirmed cases and 774 deaths with a case-fatality rate of 9.6%.3 For instance, modelling studies have suggested that an emerging pandemic of avian influenza could be contained if cases suggesting human-to-human transmission are reported within three weeks of the index case.4However, China has finally been able to restrict the further increase in the number of cases of the COVID- 19 infections. It has shown an exemplary model to the world of how sometimes the state needs to put collective welfare over individual rights. However, in most of the places like India, frontline leadership and effective governance strategies at state levels have played a crucial part in the control of such pandemic. The state of Kerala is an illuminating example. While the measures mostly aimed at checking the spread of the virus, countries almost fully shut down the daily life and the economic activities, regardless of them being developed, developing or less developed.
Some of the common measures are:
- Restrictions on travel and transportation: Countries which were severely affected by the virus have so far adopted different strategies regarding lockdowns and curfews. India, Italy, Russia and Spain announced strict curfews with imposed restrictions while countries like China, Ireland and the U.K. had some lighter restrictions. The U.S., Canada, Iran, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal, Brazil, Austria, and Israel did not impose a curfew, but they called on the citizens to stay at
- Measures for work-life: Since March, approximately 9.11% of workers across the 20 nations have registered themselves as unemployed. This represents 58 million workers.5 Countries such as Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and Brazil adopted measures aimed at protecting workers from unemployment. The U.S., U.K., China, Iran, Belgium, Russia, Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Portugal, India, Ireland, and Israel did not follow a similar approach. Whereas, India made contributions to pension funds to help the 6
- Measures at the healthcare system: The fiery spread of the virus has brought a very huge burden on the health care system in the affected There is a huge lack of the testing
3 World Health Organization, “Summary of Probably SARS Cases with Onset of Illness from 1 November 2002 to 31 July 2003.”2003.
4 Ferguson NM, Cummings DA, Cauchemez S, Fraser C, Riley S, Meeyai A, Iamsirithaworn S, Burke DS, “Strategies for containing an emerging influenza pandemic in Southeast Asia.”
Nature. 2005 Sep 8; 437(7056):209-14.
5 Jonathan Rothwell, Hannah Van Drie, “The effect of COVID-19 and disease suppression policies on labour markets: A preliminary analysis of the Data.” Brookings, April 27, 2020.
6 Editorial, “Coronavirus Relief Aid: Who gets how much direct cash transfer?” Business Today, March 26, 2020.
kits in almost all the majorly affected countries with most of them testing the confirmed cases free of charge. Some governments have even come forward to pay the health personnel in advance for their exemplary work whereas, in countries like India they have been revered to by mass public show of gratitude.
- Economic Measures: In countries like France, Germany, China, Switzerland and India companies are being provided with funding, credits and financing. Not all the affected economic institutions are being provided with the credit support but it’s good to see that the governments are co-operating well with the corporates with some of them even postponing the payment of taxes by such
The highly infectious nature of the virus and its fiery spread serves to reinforce one very important point: Stringent and centralized imposition of lockdowns, closures and well-timed quarantines are the most effective ways to stop the further spread of this kind of virus. However, Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals laid down by the UNDP advocates the importance of Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. It further illustrates that ‘we cannot hope for sustainable development without peace, stability, human rights and effective governance, based on the rule of law.’ 7 Therefore, maintaining a balance between the canvassing of stringent measures and the simultaneous adoption of the principles of the SDGs in times like these is of utmost importance to protect the rights of those who are most at risk. The stark revelation that this crisis imparts is that the performance of different countries against this deadly virus has very little to do with their development status. It is a strong state with the willingness to make tough decisions aided with the strong institutions which will come to the rescue in such grim situations.
7 UNDP, Sustainable Development Goals/ Goal 16, available at https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals/goal-16-peace-justice-and-strong- institutions.html