The US passed the grim milestone of 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, becoming the first country with a six-figure death toll.
With global cases soaring past 5.7 million and more than 354,000 deaths, the road ahead in the battle against Covid-19 is full of treacherous twists and turns even as countries around the world begin a cautious journey to reopen their economies and embrace the new normal.
Some experts in epidemiology, disaster planning and vaccine development have warned that there’s a good chance the virus will never go away, even after a vaccine is discovered and deployed. In a sign of the complexities involved in exiting a lockdown, South Korea re-imposed social distancing rules after a spike in new cases.
Nobody knows for sure — but what’s certain is that without carefully and deliberately embracing the new normal, the world will perpetually remain caught in the vicious circle of lockdowns, feeble commercial activities and severe economic downturns
So should countries and communities just passively wait out the pandemic at home and hope that the virus goes away — may be in six months or a year?
That would be wishful thinking at best and a recipe for economic catastrophe in reality.
Instead, a purposeful embrace of the situation is crucial to the next phase of the global pandemic response.
As the US jobless figures cross 40 million this week, it’s a stark reminder that hundreds of millions of people around the world are simply trying to survive, having lost their livelihoods during the lockdowns.
Therefore, ignoring the economic devastation of the pandemic at the cost of strict lockdowns will ultimately lead to a great human tragedy — the world simply doesn’t have the luxury to remain insulated at home anymore and keep factories, malls, offices and governments shut.
It’s here that the UAE’s handling of the pandemic and the careful balancing of economic and health priorities offers the world some guiding lessons.
The UAE did not hesitate to swiftly close down schools and impose movement restrictions in the early days of the infection spreading.
Instead of waiting for the pandemic to spread further, it scaled up its capacity to test the population and to treat all positive cases — the result being the UAE is now the global leader in testing and has a vast network of field hospitals ready for Covid-19 patients.
Meanwhile, the country is reopening the economy in carefully calibrated steps with stringent safety measures in place — so that both lives and livelihoods can be saved.
What does the immediate future hold for humanity? A second wave of COVID-19 infections, a vaccine in September?
Nobody knows for sure — but what’s certain is that without carefully and deliberately embracing the new normal, the world will perpetually remain caught in the vicious circle of lockdowns, feeble commercial activities and severe economic downturns.