COVID-19 and its Impact on the World by Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri
The Corona pandemic that struck the world suddenly at the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, heavily impacted not only health, the economy, the structure of state governance and international relations, but also daily life in every home across the world.
Despite the scientific and technological advancements enjoyed by developed countries, which led them to believe that everything was under control and that containing the pandemic would be easy and affordable, the pandemic proved that this attitude was mere arrogance and wishful thinking. The pandemic spread quickly to every part of the world, wreaking havoc in all countries. Millions of people have died and millions have been hospitalized.
The controversy over the source and nature of the virus has not yet been resolved, but it is certain that what happened and is happening is devastating, whether or not we submit to conspiracy theories.
What has appeared to date in terms of changes after the pandemic had struck the world is considered a precursor to what the world will be in coming years. The element of surprise has prompted many countries to work urgently through their strategic centers to develop plans and programs to deal with the challenges sparked by this pandemic, and ways to deal with its ramifications.
No one knows when any country will reach certainty that it has eradicate the virus, not even China, where the virus first emerged, and which announced at one point that the pandemic had ended in its territories. As of now, it is still recording many cases.
The battle with the virus is of a cosmic nature. Unless it is contained throughout the world, it will remain a threat that can strike at any time in different forms, as we have seen recently.
Some countries are in a hurry to end the lockdowns for economic reasons. This might be dangerous: if people freely mingle without strict controls and precautions, it could result in new waves of the pandemic.
covid-19 revealed the fragility of the existing international system, putting the values and ideals it advocates at stake. Instead of cooperation and solidarity, regression and neglect appeared even within individual systems and countries. In less-developed countries, the elderly and migrants in some cases, were ignored when providing medical services and vaccinations. Many countries could not afford to provide vaccines to their populations. At the same time, vaccine manufacturers raised their prices.
Meanwhile, the confrontation between the United States and China over the pandemic is actually a confrontation over dominance and markets. This is not a healthy environment, and it threatens world peace and security.
In light of this confrontation, the world will lose the chance to change the idea and means of international cooperation. There is a dire need to adopt new and more humane policies that view the world as a single family united by the pandemic. However, the lack of strong and wise leadership in the world is increasing confusion, and fear is in the air.
In order to prevent the virus from spreading, the pandemic forced the world to implement social distancing measures. . This led to the emergence of what is known as ‘social isolation’, something that the world has never witnessed before. The restriction of movement developed into cancelling travels and meetings: almost everything is conducted online. This situation has created many difficulties and caused numerous problems.
The experience of staying at home during last year had many positive and negative consequences. More than 2.5 billion people were restricted to their residences. Millions did not have the option to choose their places of lodging, as many travellers were abandoned at airports. Many expatriate workers and students remained separated from their home countries and families without any psychological or financial preparation.
The stress and anxiety caused by the fear of contracting covid-19 coincided with other fears for those around the world who lost their jobs or are expected to lose their jobs. Thousands of factories, along with millions of people, have stopped working, airline companies were shut down, and the tourism industry is in shambles. According to UNCTAD, the loss in tourism alone has been more than $4 trillion so far. In terms of the world of trade, the loss has reached more than $4 trillion according to the World Bank.
At a time when world powers are seeking to cover the deficit resulting from the turmoil of the economy and provide urgent direct assistance to their citizens, many developing countries are unable to meet the most basic needs of their citizens, making the gap between the rich and poor increase continuously.
Education also was impacted at all levels. Students have had to receive instruction online, which is not sufficiently available for millions of students in less-developed countries.
covid-19 has increased the reliance on technology to run businesses, and the term; ‘work from home’ became a reality of doing business. Business managers sought to take advantage of the digital development in the way they conducted business in all areas, meaning that the post-Covid world will witness an interest in promoting and developing everything related to digital technologies and their applications at all levels. This in turn will lead to increased networking among countries with well-established structures.
Increased networking promotes knowledge exchange in all areas. This will, of course, provide an economic return. However, less-developed countries will not be able to cope with this change.
The increased economic gap between rich and poor countries will affect the pattern and rates of migration. It will also be reflected in regional and internal conflicts.
The struggle over economic resources, especially in the energy field, will rise, as the oil market will be governed by political competition and the pursuit of market dominance. In addition to energy, there will be fierce competition over food and its sources. This competition will go beyond the frameworks of cooperation, plans, and programs that were adopted by international and regional groups such as the specialized United Nations organizations. There will be an insatiable interest by rich countries that possess capital and technology in poor countries with untapped virgin land, whether that is due to lack of funds, mismanagement, or conflicts.
The role of international organizations will diminish drastically. This can be seen now in the UN and its specialized agencies, such as WHO and UNESCO.
All countries are now preparing for a post-covid-19 world, bearing in mind their national interests as a basis that defines the framework of their movement to deal with this new world. They are also reshaping their economies and reducing their expenses to compensate for their incurred losses due to the pandemic.
It is necessary for the world to learn a lesson from this pandemic and produce a unified global vision to create a new world order based on solidarity and sharing.
Viruses are dangerous to people’s health and world safety, but greed and selfishness are more dangerous to the world at large.
Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri is the Former Director General of ISESCO