After 3 months with most of the world in lockdown the COVID-19 virus is still moving around. While Europe and parts of Asia are slowly opening up, much of the rest of the world experience a worsening situation. And even the opening up process have severe restrictions. At this time more than 8 million people have been affected and more than 440 000 died. The figures are probably grimmer in reality as reporting seems to be incomplete in many countries. We still have a lot to learn about this virus in terms of how long it will last and what effects it will have. It is crucial that the health services are in a position to take care of those who need it. Social distancing and other measures may have to go on for a long time.
A Black Swan is here! Already the ancient Romans used the expression “a Black Swan” to refer to something that is so rare that it hardly exists. All swans anybody had seen were white. As no one had seen a black one it was not considered to exist. However, in 1697 Dutch explorers spotted black swans in Western Australia. While the previous assumption was proven wrong in the biological arena the expression has stayed with us to refer to something very very rare but having eventually high impact, and nevertheless being natural or understandable – but only afterwards.
After the 2008 financial crisis, a number of good “forecasters” popped up – after the fact sayng “it was expected”. Also, now it has been too easy to say that “of course a pandemic like COVID 2019, caused by a new nasty virus, would have popped up one day”. But very few experts or decision makers attached a high enough probability to such a Black Swan that proper (expensive) precautions would have been taken. Neither the health nor the social protection system was prepared, at all. What about the economy? Did the financial crisis teach anything about the economics of Black Swans?
Eva Holmberg Herrström President, ICSW
The world is hit by a pandemic. Covid-19 is spreading very fast around the globe by direct contact between people. Most governments try to suppress the virus by closing down activities and borders. People are encouraged to work from home, education goes on the internet and elderly people told to isolate themselves.
We do not know enough about how to deal with the virus, it is new and unknown and treatment unavailable. The capacity of health services differs, but face serious challenges. Up to 96 % of those infected have mild symptoms and get well, but the virus is fatal for others.
The quick spread of the disease has severe consequences for society. Production of goods and services as well as trade is hindered or stopped. Unemployment is increasing fast, and many people face reduction of income or loss of it.
The economy may take years to recover, and the debt burden for countries and governments hard to cope with. Financial depression may increase mental health challenges. The less wealthy countries are hit harder.
Solidarity is at stake, and decisive for how the world will handle the pandemic. As young environmentalists say: We have only one planet. And we share it.