By Nageshwar Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, April 4, 2020: Historically, major wars rewrote the world map bringing profound changes in societies and economies. But today’s Made-In-China pandemic — coronavirus COVID-19, has unleashed international crisis worst than wartime hazard. The world will not be the same after the pandemic.

The COVID-19 has affected 204 countries and territories around the world killing more than 60,000 people till Saturday. More than 11 lakh people have been infected by this deadly virus and around one fifth of them have been cured so far. The colossus human and economic toll wrought by the worldwide spread of the killer coronavirus has already shaken up global geopolitics.

China has been accused of weeks-long cover-up of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan city and other parts of Hubei province. Though Wuhan doctors began recording one to five cases daily from November 17 just before infection rates scaled up, the Chinese leaders waited for well over a month after the first outbreak in Wuhan to issue first public warning on January 21. Belatedly on January 30, the WHO declared coronavirus a global emergency as the death toll in China jumped to 170, with 7,711 cases reported in the country.

The Chinese government declared a lockdown in Wuhan on January 23 — even weeks after the virus first appeared. By then, the spread of the virus had gone beyond control and more than five million people had already left Wuhan to different parts of the world. Had the Chinese authorities acted three weeks earlier, the number of COVID-19 cases in China could have been reduced by 95% and the global spread of the disease limited, according to experts.

What we now witness is clearly a man made calamity and an unparalleled global crisis leading to severe economic downturn and social disruptions. “The world is paying a big price,” US President Donald Trump said repeatedly pointing to China as the source of the pandemic, which he called “Wuhan virus”. But Beijing is trying its best dodging culpability for its role in spreading the coronavirus.

Only time will say whether Chinese leaders deliberately delayed in issuing pubic warning or not. At the same time, the advanced as well as developing countries also failed to realise the gravity of the situation. For instance, more than a month after the WHO declared COVID-19 as global health emergency, the US on March 11 suspended entry to nearly all foreign nationals who have been in China, Iran, and certain European countries.

Similarly, the UK government on March 17 advised citizens “against all non-essential travel worldwide”, initially for a period of 30 days. Other countries also adopted sweeping measures, including full lockdowns, shutting down airports, imposing travel restrictions and completely sealing their borders, to contain the new coronavirus. But the move came a bit late with the virus spreading like wildfire killing scores of people across the globe.

Those countries most badly affected, at least in the developed world, are those where free-market policies are in place. These were the countries that did not move rapidly to arrest the outbreak, did not impose the necessary public health sanctions, did not bolster health service capacity, and did not offer the income support mechanisms needed to ensure social distancing.

The spread of the virus virtually forced all the countries to go for lockdown ranging from 15 days to two months. Lockdown is putting pressure on the global economy. A serious recession is expected sooner or later. This has led some world leaders to call for easing of lockdown measures.

The downturn in economies of the countries is fairly straightforward. Businesses exist to make a profit. If they can’t produce, they can’t sell things. This means they won’t make profits, which means they cannot retain their employees for long time. don’t need immediately: they want to be able to meet demand when the economy More people lose their jobs or fear losing their jobs. So they buy less. And the whole cycle starts again, and the world spirals into an economic depression.

The whole point of the lockdown is to stop people going to work, where they spread the disease. Large-scale quarantines, travel restrictions, and social-distancing measures has already led to a sharp fall in consumer and business spending. It will keep continuing till the end of Q2, leading to a recession. Even if the outbreak comes under control in most parts of the world by late in Q2, the self-reinforcing dynamics of a recession kick in and prolong the slump until the end of Q3.

The governments of the world are faced with a piquant situation. Lifting lockdown could see a spike in COVID-19 infections killing tens of thousands of people. At the same time, the economies can not far long be allowed to nosedive halting development.

Which is why, the governments are still groping in darkness about their next move in this abnormal situation. In a normal crisis the prescription for solving could have been simple – the government spends, and it spends until people start consuming and working again.

As the economist James Meadway wrote, “The Covid-19 economic crisis is not a recession. It is not the 2008-9 financial crisis. It is not the Great Depression. Forget the conventional categories of economic analysis. In terms of the size and spread of the global economic impact, the nearest comparison in the last 100 years is the Second World War”.

The correct Covid-19 response isn’t a wartime economy – with massive upscaling of production, Meadway says stressing on the need for an “anti-wartime” economy and a massive scaling back of production. In fact, if the nations are to be more resilient to pandemics in the future, they need a system capable of scaling back production in a way that doesn’t mean loss of livelihood.

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