Positive effects of COVID-19
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - February 18, 2020 - 12:00am

As of Friday, February 14, the death toll from the COVID-19 coronavirus has reached 1,523, and more than 66,000 are infected, 90% of them in China. The epidemic is still ongoing, but recent reports from WHO and China averred that rate of new infections have peaked and will soon be declining. There is also the onset of the summer months, and as the virus does not thrive in sunlight, high temperature, and high humidity, it is expected that this will be over by May. At this time, it is quite difficult to see the positive effects of this epidemic, but like all events there are always positive effects. The other side of disasters are always opportunities.

On the scientific and medical aspects, the COVID-19 epidemic has accelerated the research and development of medicines, treatments and management, and possible vaccines against the virus. This also happened in the previous SARS and MERS epidemics, but more now because of the wider contagion brought about by the greater mobility of people, especially the Chinese. Isolation and quarantine processes are better and the campaign for hygiene and infection prevention has gone systematic and worldwide. The locations of biological research laboratories are now under closer scrutiny and the containment protocols enhanced.

On the social positive effects, aside from the improvement of the sanitation and hygienic practices of the people, the cooperation among people and among countries all over the world was good. Information sharing, donations, and volunteerism from persons and nations are laudable. There were appreciations and social support for the front liners in both the main and social media. It even tempered the slew of fake news in all the social media.

The political effects are revelations. The response to the crisis by the political leaders especially in the Asian countries showed the grasp and effectiveness of the leaders and their governance capability. It exposed the bias, competence, and abilities of the leaders in both democratic and authoritarian governments. The reactions of the netizens in China on the death of the doctor who first exposed the possible epidemic, was rebellious in a controlled state like China. The COVID-19 epidemic has a humbling effect on all political leaders and politicians. Reminds me of an old Chinese saying,” there is no enemy so small, he cannot harm you.”

The immediate economic effect of the COVID-19 epidemic is the slowdown of the world’s economic activity and growth. Tourism, which is a $400-billion industry annually, is taking a beating. There is a disruption in the worldwide supply chain that will mean lack of materials for processing and assembling, and subsequently lack of finished goods for sale. Factories and stores have closed. Airline travel and even ocean movement of people and goods are slowing down. This epidemic will likely reduce the World GDP by one-fourth to one-half percent, but more in China and some Asian countries.

China’s GDP growth which was 6% in 2019 may go down to 5%, which already includes the Hong Kong problem. The maximum reduction in the Philippines GDP would likely be ½%, which would also be in the case of Indonesia and Malaysia. The good effects of this economic slowdown are; the lower price of oil due to the lesser demand, the lesser environmental destruction due to the slower mineral and natural resource extraction, and the lesser air and water pollution. It had been posited that double-digit economic growth in any country is unsustainable and disruptive environmentally and ecologically. Epidemics, like earthquakes and other calamities, may just be one of the ways that nature or God uses to re-balance the resources in the world, which includes us people.

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