What affects one, affects us all
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony F. Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - March 4, 2020 - 12:00am

It has been several weeks since news about the coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19 broke. In the beginning, it looked like all the other times we dealt with a new disease — a few cancelations here and there, perhaps rebooked flights, a little work disruption and then things would get under control and life would return to normal.

While I am still hoping that this will eventually become the case, the truth is that COVID-19 is hitting the world much harder this time and proving, beyond a doubt, that while isolationism is what several countries are striving for these days, we are still truly connected and what affects one of us will have a ripple effect that will eventually reach us all.

This global realization comes at the heels of the fast spread of COVID-19 and the Herculean task global health organizations have to contain it. What’s more, it has begun to affect not just travel and tourism, but also business, jobs, the global economy, and all-around human interactions. Sadly, it seems that containment is no longer possible as more and more countries have confirmed cases of the disease. At this point, management and treatment are priorities.

It’s unbelievable how quickly the disease spread and is yet another reminder of how connected the whole world is despite closed borders and talks of building walls. Since the very first global report of COVID-19 cases in China last Dec. 31, the illness has spread to countries all over the world including Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Norway, Italy, Romania, Greece, Pakistan, Brazil, Northern Ireland, Denmark, the Philippines, and the United States to name a few. The global death toll is at the 3,000 mark while infections are at about 80,000.

Along with the health problems the outbreak has caused, there are the severe implications it presents for business and the global economy. It’s already been difficult maintaining good business ties internationally when countries have already been giving each other a difficult time when it comes to working together. The global economy had already taken a hit even before the virus, and now, more than ever, international investments and job displacement is going to be a serious problem.

As of February, tourism has taken a serious hit as airlines have stopped certain flights and routes, tourist attractions have closed their doors temporarily, and planned festivals and events have been either postponed or canceled completely. It’s actually very sad and the next few weeks look pretty bleak while everyone figures out what to do next and how to contain and control the virus on their shores.

The supply chain is also severely affected as several raw materials and goods come out of China and export and deliveries have been greatly impacted by COVID-19. For countries that rely heavily on China for imports of both goods and raw materials, the impact is already quite evident and could get worse before it gets better.

In the Philippines, job displacement is also a real problem. We have to brace ourselves for severe disruptions for overseas workers and the possible displacement of workers who are already based abroad. As is, there are several workers from Hong Kong and Singapore who came home for the holidays and have not been able to return since to their work. This has not only made life challenging, but has also left them scrambling for a way to make a living in the interim.

In Italy, where over 100,000 OFWs are located, they have already issued lockdown due to COVID-19 and it looks as if that may just happen in the Middle East and North Africa countries where there are over two million Filipino OFWs. This could lead to serious issues if the virus is not contained acceptably in the coming weeks.

The United States is also slowly taking steps to cut off ties with China and other heavily infected countries. They have cancelled flights and the US government is looking at ways to prevent any type of import from suspected infected destinations. We have yet to see how this will further impact the global economy moving forward, but I can tell the outcome is not going to be good, at least not in the immediate future.

It’s honestly disheartening seeing so much bad news about the virus and wondering how long it will take to be able to successfully manage it. I have faith that we will get it together in time, but for now, we have to take things one step at a time.

Hopefully, this shared problem will eventually unite us instead of divide us further. We all need to work together if want to beat this outbreak. It’s useless at this point to pretend that we aren’t all affected because it’s plain that we are all impacted in the same way. Closing ourselves off from one another isn’t going to make it better. Sharing resources, working together, being transparent — these are the ways forward. In the meantime, as individuals, we need to stop panicking and do our best to contain the virus in our own ways — wash our hands, maintain hygiene, and be responsible for our health and wellness.

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