Due to the corona virus, the economy in almost all countries has come to a grinding halt. Politics, even up to and including President Trump, have the first priority to save the population from the surrounding corona virus. Understandable and rightly so. For the shorter term. However, as can be expected, the first reports from entrepreneurs and academics are published that it cannot go on for long. Although Europe has deeper social financial pockets than the US, it cannot sustain this for long. No country can wait with restarting the economy until a vaccine is available, which will certainly last another year.
In the short term, plans must therefore be made for an intelligent restart. Those plans cannot wait weeks, nor their execution. These should be launched in parallel with the current crisis actions on lockdown, IC capacity and testing.
What comes first? Healthy people sitting at home will have to return to work as soon as possible. After all, the economy floats on them. This means that, in addition to healthcare personnel, they must start working as soon as possible in a “corona-free” environment. In particular, the sectors that are not or less dependent on busy public events will have to start quickly.
Think of production and service companies, where you can keep your distance with little effort. But also to shops that can certainly be open to the public again, provided that the right provisions are made. Good monitoring of everyone who is working again on corona contamination, by means of Apps and rapid tests (see below), is crucial.
Furthermore, it appears during this crisis that some companies are extremely busy, while other sectors are languishing. We can mourn how unfortunate it is that the catering and the theatres are closed, as well as the travel industry, but unfortunately that cannot be resolved in the short term, because this would actually mean lifting the lock down. So too great a risk. However, given the labour shortages in a number of sectors (health care, IT, food companies), hard work should be done on as much retraining as possible for those sectors. In short: a transition of the labour market, which was partly necessary anyway. Perhaps a number of people from the hospitality, theatre and travel world can find employment in this.
Of course, work must also be done on solutions for “busy environments”, such as theatre, festivals, sporting events, markets. However, in the short term, until there may be a vaccine in a year, we have to settle for creative, digital alternatives. Such as online concerts, “alligator” distancing, virtual cycling races, etc. Everything depends on continuous monitoring.
An attempt should be made to restart relatively quick intelligently outside recreation and sport. First of all, it is important that the current interior sitters can go out again in the coming spring to maintain health. But otherwise it is possible to keep a distance from each other in a lot of outdoor recreation and sports. That would also help some of the catering and sports accommodations to get going again.
In addition, solutions must be found to restart education as soon as possible, in particular nursery, primary and secondary education. For the smallest children it is socially very undesirable that they cannot play with each other. While children from disadvantaged families also benefit greatly from contact with peers. Despite all the online initiatives, children also suffer a considerable learning delay if they do not go to school until the upcoming summer holidays. The faster we can make “corona-free” zones for these categories, the better it is.
An essential step is that we test the population en masse as soon as the tests are available, so that we know better where the pockets of contamination are located. After all, measuring = knowing. The next step is to create corona-free areas in addition to corona-sensitive areas. In the free areas, people can return to normal work and get together, but under constant monitoring with tests. Conversely, certain places of high vulnerability, such as care for homes, may possibly be placed in isolation together with staff (there are examples). This creates a pattern of corona-free areas, in addition to isolation of super vulnerable groups. It is the Asian approach that has worked well. Everything depends on mass testing with this approach. However, more and more products and services are coming onto the market for this.
The above scenario is approximately the South Korea scenario. It is important that such a scenario is properly coordinated with countries around us. It is disastrous if countries with a lot of passenger traffic follow different “restart” scenarios. Countries will then not trust each other’s policies and trade and passenger traffic will not start. Here in Europe is an important task for the European Commission to try to ensure that all countries follow the same “restart” scenario. Especially with regard to testing in order to increase confidence.
Finally, we come to longer-term solutions after this crisis. We will have to learn from this virus outbreak. At least what we should learn seems to be:
- Be more careful with human transport. After all, humans spread the virus. Keep that much better under control in the future.
- In case of local disaster, immediately stop all transport movements in and out. And check maximally with necessary transport.
- Put maximum pressure on China and other Asian countries to really stop trading and consuming exotic animal material. After SARS, MERS and Corona, lessons should be learned. It also prevents extinction of rare animals.
- Focus on digital international cooperation. After all, it is free from (physical) viruses and proved to be a weak point in this crisis. The Western world has learned nothing from the experiences of Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore, while much data was available.
- Do much more in digital aid for developing countries. These countries are now disproportionately affected by the corona virus because they have poor medical facilities and no social safety net. Western countries could do a lot, by restoring tourism as soon as possible, by helping with numerous online opportunities in areas such as education, e-health. By helping with post-corona economic plans.
- Finally, as has often been argued, set up a world crisis organization under the banner of the UN for such matters. Once again, this crisis showed that each country crawled into its own shell, devised national solutions, and subsequently recognized that international cooperation is useful and necessary. The WHO, among others, should be given a much more powerful mandate.
- Capitalize on the reduced CO2 and nitrogen emissions of this crisis. Try to keep the low emission levels as much as possible. Promote video conferencing as an alternative to (expensive) travel. Discourage unnecessary transport, such as goods being transported from one country to another for relatively small operations. Maximally encourage the use of e-solutions (e-books, e-documents, e-health, e-governance) in order to require less transport and raw materials.
- Capitalize on the many innovative actions of citizens and companies. There is an unprecedented stream of new solutions devised by creative people and entrepreneurs to keep working.
- Capitalize on all government actions to temporarily ban all kinds of laws. Suddenly online shareholders are allowed to meet. Notaries may pass actions online. There will be online education and exams. E-health gets off the ground. Politicians can hold international meetings online.