When a virus holds humanity hostage

Position Paper | Year 2020
When a virus holds humanity hostage
Cause & consequences of the coronacrisis
Class of the Humanities
Cause & consequences of the coronacrisis
The Corona crisis is an unseen ordeal for humanity. Spreading worldwide from the Chinese city of Wuhan from January 2020 onwards, covid-19 is gradually plaguing the world. Infections and death toll have climbed steeply, also in Belgium. Governments, assisted by virologists, take drastic measures. The current wave of contaminations also heralds an economic disaster, massive temporary unemployment and important solvency problems for companies and sectors.
Laboratories all over the world are looking for a preventive vaccine and a curative medicine. Questions arise regarding the distribution in the world market when a first vaccine becomes available. Other major dangers are imminent, such as AMR or anti-microbial resistance. Global warming, if we cannot control it efficiently, is likely to change and affect life on Earth even more profoundly. It cannot be ruled out that the spread of Covid-19 is indirectly the result of global warming. As in a short period of time biodiversity on earth has approximately been halved, the corona virus could no longer rely on animals for its development. As a result, it had to look for another host. Hence the need to integrate an efficient  anti-corona strategy into a comprehensive climate policy. A hint for the Green Deal of the European Union.
After the end of the corona crisis - which can only occur if an efficient vaccine is found and administered - a lot of profound changes in lifestyle and work habits will have to be introduced.
A social pact is required, which can be better referred to as a “societal contract”, in which healthcare workers in the broad sense of the term will be  better protected and recognized, also through better pay. Health policy can be more efficient, in nursing homes in particular. All persons carrying out vital tasks in our society should get more recognition also financially. Social security, this monument of solidarity, must be strengthened and reformed in certain aspects. Different kinds of inequality and discrimination must be eliminated. Government policy must be worked out and implemented in cooperation with scientific experts. Lessons can be learned from this method with regard to other policy areas of a socio-economic nature and with regard to the functioning of the institutions in a complex country such as Belgium. The digitization of society will increase very strongly, including teleworking, with a major impact on mobility, lifestyle and even administrative building architecture. Many former employees will become self-employed.
The economic storm that will plague business for a number of years must also be financed by innovative initiatives from the European Union. If not, public opinion in Europe will increasingly turn against the European Union. National member states should also avoid near-bankruptcy, even if this means allowing budget deficits above 10-15% of their GDP. The role of government, both national and European, should be strengthened and the legacy of J.M. Keynes will come alive again. Deficit spending will become inevitable and will be partly financed monetarily. Debt build-up remains manageable as long as interest rates fluctuate around zero. European support to our companies is also essential to prevent them from falling into the hands of foreign buyers, Chinese foremost among them,  at a bargain price. The principles of fair trade need to be strengthened. At the European level, more and more Europe is needed. The monetary union must be expanded with a budgetary union and with the granting of taxing power to the European Parliament. This will allow national governments to reduce their own taxes. Evidently, in such a constellation, a number of powers that are still national today will have to be transferred to the European Union  and to the European Parliament.
The corona crisis is a test of civilization and confronts us with more question than exclamation marks. The ethical dimension of the practical solutions should not be neglected. The current crisis can also have beneficial effects, if it leads to more humanity.

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  • Mark Eyskens