The Post COVID-19 World: Moving Beyond Building Back Better
Together with expert speakers, we will be looking for answers to these questions at this year’s Global Health Night. And, most importantly, we will discuss the actions we need to take to go “beyond building back better”. The free online event jointly organized by SOGH, SIGHT, the SIGHT student organizations network together with MISUM and SASSE at the Stockholm School of Economics, will take place on the 25th of November, 2020 at 18:00 CET.
Preparing for this event, I wrote up some of my thoughts on a post COVID-19 world for today’s blog post.
When sleeping with a face mask becomes normal
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down. Lockdown measures, economic consequences, overstrained health care systems – unexpected for many of us, we’ve seen it all happening in just a few months. Since this pandemic emerged, nothing has been as constant as change itself. We are all experiencing changes in our personal lives, big and small. And we have begun to adjust, even to the things we never thought we would be able to. Take face masks for example, they have become an everyday accessory. Wearing itchy, stinky, and simply uncomfortable face masks most of the day isn’t really that bad at all once it becomes a routine. I got so used to wearing one that I even forgot to take it off before I put myself into bed the other day.
Face masks might have become the most visible change in this raging pandemic, but they are the lesser evil considering the essential contribution to preventing transmission of COVID-19. With countries going into second lockdowns and new infection peaks, it’s time to realize: the end of this pandemic is not in sight yet. We are probably not even halfway there. But which of the changes in the view right now will be of last in the post COVID-19 world? Which of them will disappear just as fast as they cropped up? Is COVID-19 really shaping a whole new world or are we going to relapse into old habits as soon as the outbreak is contained?
Looking back to predict future history
While we can’t take a look into the crystal ball to foresee the future, what we can do is reflect on the past and try to learn from history. Humanity has seen devastating pandemics before. And pre-pandemic times were just as much post-pandemic once upon a time. The plague, for example, wiped out about 60 % of the global population in the 14th century. However, the spread of the terrible so-called Black Death forced authorities in Europe to build hospitals and institute health measures, some of which remain in place today and paved the road for modern health care systems. By wiping out most of the working population and creating a shortage of labor, the Black Death also marked the end of feudalism and serfdom in Europe. Between 1918 and 1920, the Spanish Flu killed up to 50 million people, and is believed to have significantly influenced the course of the First World War. It furthermore revolutionized universal health care in western European countries and spawned modern epidemiology and virology.
Regardless of their devastating impacts, the aftermath of previous pandemics significantly transformed health care, socioeconomic and political systems lasting far beyond the outbreak itself. And if the COVID-19 pandemic is somewhat like the pandemics of the past, chances are things won’t remain the same after COVID-19 either. One thing at least all three pandemics share certainly in common: they are anything but equitable and disproportionally affect marginalized members of the society. Learning from our history, we can be hopeful that the change to come will be for the better. However, we still can not exactly predict what this change is going to look like. And yet, that’s the greatest news of all: we don’t even have to wait and see what the future will bring à la whatever will be, will be. We ourselves have the power to create the very best version of our future world.
Good old pre-pandemic times
It is tempting to get melancholic over the good old pre-pandemic times, wishing for those days to come back sooner. But let’s not forget that “good old pre-pandemic times” weren’t all that rosy either. We all want the good stuff back – the hugs, the kisses, the social activities (maybe not exactly all the social activities) but also we want economic security, freedom of movement and health at the fullest possible level. Privileges that some of us took for granted prior to COVID-19, but weren’t reality for the largest part of the world’s population long before a pandemic was making our lives tougher. Sadly, this population is expected to rise as COVID-19 sets back the progress we made over decades on poverty, healthcare and education towards achieving the goals on the SDG agenda.
A post COVID-19 world will not be a world in which SARS-CoV-2 will have disappeared, but it will be a world were the novel virus has lost some of its threat. In this world, we will have learned to live with the new disease. Maybe we will have found better treatment or even an effective vaccine to prevent infection, just like we did with other diseases before. Nevertheless, even in a post-pandemic world, people will continue to fall ill and decease due to COVID-19. And although we will be able to hug our dear ones and show our smiles in public again, just like in pre-pandemic times, it will still be a world that continues to face socioeconomic inequalities threatening lives and livelihood.
Act local, think global
Now more than ever is the right time to get up and tackle the socio-economic inequalities that the COVID-19 health crisis has brought to the surface. Let’s not press the snooze button and go back to sleep like we do after receiving an inconvenient wake up call. Never before in recent times have we had a clearer image of the shaky foundations upon which our economic, social and political systems are built. Never before has global health been the top priority on the political agenda across most countries. What a great opportunity this could be. An opportunity to bring about long-lasting social change and finally overcome global health inequalities, if we grab this opportunity and work together to build back a better world.
Start building back a better a better world by signing up for Global Health Night
COVID-19 is a chance to change for the better and we all can contribute a valuable bit. Join us for Global Health Night on the 25th of November at 18:00 CET and find out how immediate local action can achieve global impact to build a better post pandemic world. Sign up today to discuss with our speakers and panellists representing academia, industry and civil society.
Click here for more information about the event, a detailed list of speakers and the event program.
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