6 Ways Coronavirus Will Change The World Forever

Tom Stevenson
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We are living in extraordinary times. People around the world are stuck inside their homes in an attempt to ward off an invisible enemy.

The norms that we have come to take for granted have been replaced in a matter of weeks. In the space of four months, we have gone from things being normal, to things being very different.

No one knows how long we will need to keep these measures in place. The timeframe on when a vaccine will be ready is uncertain. The only thing that is certain is that once we are released from the grip of this virus, the world will have changed.

We are all at the mercy of events in a pandemic. We control very little. One thing we do control is how we respond. It’s easy to feel a wave of helplessness wash over you and assume the future is doomed, but that might not be the case.

Out of the Ashes of the Second World War, the Marshall Plan revitalised Europe and the signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957 led to the creation of the European Union, which has prevented further war on a continent that had seen almost continuous war for two thousand years.

The last great pandemic, the Spanish flu, saw healthcare become a central policy around the globe. It led to the recognition that global institutions were needed to tackle global problems and led to the widespread development of vaccines which benefitted countless lives around the world and to the eradication of smallpox from the planet.

The future is unknown. No one knows what’s going to happen, but we can make long-term predictions on what might happen. Looking into the future, I see several ways in which the world will be changed by the crisis we are living through.

1. Universal Basic Income

This pandemic has exposed how many of us are susceptible to events out of our control. Many people around the world are unable to work because of the social distancing measures in place.

No work means no income and when you’re living paycheque to paycheck, that’s a scary thought. As someone who is self-employed, this crisis has shown me how fragile my own job is.

Yes, I can still write on Medium and make money, but traffic to my travel blog has dried up due to the closing of borders around the globe.

Most governments have stepped in and offered to pay 80% of people’swages during this difficult time. This is a great help, but what has happened in America may be a sign of what is to come.

Americans will receive a $1,200 cheque from the government to help tie them over during the crisis. While this may not be enough for most people to survive on, the face it’s been sent out is important. Especially when 6.6 million people have declared themselves unemployed.

A simpler way to solve the problem of people becoming unemployed would have been to introduce a universal basic income. Regardless of their pay, every adult would receive a fixed sum every month, no questions asked.

Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign focused on this idea and brought it into the mainstream. With a depression likely in the following years, the unemployed and the vulnerable are going to strong. The most effective way to stop those people from sliding into poverty is to give them money. Welfare states are great, but they involve a lot of bureaucracy.

Poverty is not a result of a lack of character or drive, it stems from a lack of cash. A universal basic income would provide everyone in society with a secure safety net and allow people to follow creative pursuits that may have put on hold due to working in menial office jobs.

This crisis has shown us how fragile we all are. Most of us are closer to poverty than we realise. In an ever-changing and uncertain world, the best way to protect your economy and workers is to give them money, no questions asked.

Once wishful thinking, universal basic income could become a reality in the coming years.

2. Free Healthcare

I live in the UK, which is home to the magnificent National Health Service, NHS for short. No matter your age, wealth or where you live, you are entitled to free healthcare at the point of entry.

It’s the greatest achievement in British history in my humble opinion. Although it has been underfunded in recent years, support for it has never been higher. This crisis will test the NHS, but it will also show how essential it is.

Unfortunately, many people around the world are not able to access healthcare in the same manner that I am. During a pandemic, this is a major issue. Otherwise, could die as a result of not having the right insurance, thus disqualifying them from treatment.

The United States is a prime example of this. If you don’t have health insurance, you are at a much higher risk than someone who does. If you contract the virus and the hospital turns you away, you could die not because the hospital can’t treat you, but because you’re not insured.

In a crisis where thousands, if not millions of people will die, this is morally repugnant. Countries with strong healthcare systems that are open to all, are much better equipped to deal with a crisis than those who are not.

A scenario where the rich can afford to protect themselves against a deadly virus and those who can’t are left to fend for themselves is just wrong. In the 21st century, it should not be much to ask for states around the globe to offer this basic right to their citizens.

In those countries where healthcare is free, the support and admiration will only increase. While in countries without such a system, the clamour for one to be introduced will be immense.

3. A renewed emphasis on climate change

One positive to come out of this crisis is that carbon emissions are likely to fall compared to recent years. Lockdown has restricted many people to their homes, taking numerous cars off the road and grounding airlines across the planet.

The UK reported journeys by car were at their lowest levels since 1955 as a result of the lockdown. While the reduction in emissions is welcome news, it will be for nothing, if emissions continue as normal once the lockdowns are lifted.

For many of us around the globe, we are seeing what a world without emissions and thousands of cars looks like and it doesn’t look too bad.

In my city in England, it’s noticeable how much cleaner the air is. Roads are much quieter than they have ever been and wildlife, which had been absent from our gardens for many years, is returning with aplomb.

This crisis has shown that we are beholden to events out of our control. As much as we like to think that we, as a species, have transcended nature, the reality is that we are at her mercy.

We have had a glimpse into what a life without carbon looks like. I think most of us would prefer to breathe clean air than breathe in pollutants. The climate movement was already gaining momentum before this pandemic struck.

Now that we have seen the effect a huge crisis can have on humanity and that we are not masters of nature, but subservient to it, the clamour to act on climate change will only grow.

4. Stronger social bonds

In 1987, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared in an interview that “there was no such thing as society.” Her statement came during the age of individualism when the social bonds of old were beginning to fray.

The idea of the individual held throughout the 90s and the beginning of the 21st century, but it has taken a battering following this pandemic.

What we have seen is a realisation that we cannot function without one another. Far from there being no such thing as society, we have seen society is alive and kicking.

Thousands of people clapping for healthcare workers in Italy, Spain and the UK. Communities rallying to help each other and the most vulnerable.

Yes, people have been hoarding toilet roll, pasta and other items, the trappings of individualism are hard to shake. However, as this crisis has developed more and more people are coming together to help one another.

Sometimes, it takes a crisis to strengthen social bonds that have been weakened through generations of political meddling and scapegoating. Humans are co-operative species, it’s how we’ve grown to where we are today.

We are at our strongest when we work together, not against each other. This crisis will show us the value of sticking together and forging strong social bonds.

5. The decline of populism

This point is more in hope than a definitive belief that populism will subside. in fact, populists are often best-placed to take advantages of crises. One only has to look at the actions of Viktor Orbán in Hungary recently and Hitler following the Reichstag fire to see this.

Despite this, I still believe that populism will struggle in the coming years. Of the populists in charge at the moment, none of them has covered themselves in glory.

In America, Donald Trump declared the virus a hoax, that it wasn’t a big problem and that the economy could be up and running by mid-April. His inability to act in time will likely see thousands of more people die than what otherwise would have been the case if he had acted earlier.

As of writing, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is still adamant that the virus is nothing but a bad case of the flu and refusing to shut the country down. It has been left to the governors of cities such as São Paulo to go over his head and take action to stop the crisis from turning into a disaster.

While Bori Johnson may not necessarily be a populist, he shares a lot of similarities with Trump. The UK government’s early strategy centred around the controversial idea of herd immunity. Simply put, to let the virus move through society, infecting large numbers of people so that a resistance to it could be built it up.

When they released the human and economic damage this would cause, they changed course quickly. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed populists for what they are, chances who offer simple solutions to complex problems.

Unlike political enemies, courts or the European Union, the virus cannot be manipulated or bargain with, it doesn’t care about fancy slogans, it will carry on infecting people no matter how they rail against it.

Populists are exposed when they have to deal with a crisis such as this. It requires competence, engaging with experts and telling the truth, all things that populists struggle with. Indeed, the Washington Post estimated Trump had told 15,413 lies during his Presidency as of December 2019.

When we are of the scourge of Coronavirus the world will reflect on how their leaders handled the crisis. Populist leaders will be made to pay for their lack of competence, in a time when competence was vital.

6. Better Global co-operation

Again, this is an optimistic suggestion, but one I feel will happen. This virus has shown us how interconnected our world is. It’s the butterfly effect in action. A deadly virus emerging in a market in China affected the whole global economy.

Talk of America First and Taking Back Control do not matter when your enemy does not respect international boundaries. We are more dependent than each other than we realise.

The rise of nationalism has led to a lack of international co-operation in recent years, but it will not last in the long run. A global economy cannot prosper without solidarity amongst its nations.

The first sign of this was the open-sourcing of the Coronavirus genome, which allowed labs around the world to sequence the genome. Without this co-operation, it’s likely we would still be muddling around today to try and find a solution.

The threats of the future do not affect nations, they affect the whole planet. To survive and prosper, we need to work together to develop solutions. Blaming others will only result in time being wasted on petty issues when far greater ones are at stake.

This pandemic is a warmup for climate change. It has shown what happens when an event spreads around the globe and affects all of us. We cannot solve it on our own, we have to work in tandem.

From the wreckage, should come a realisation, much like at the end of the Second World War, that we need strong global institutions with the power to act to prevent similar crises in the future.

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