November 2019 – BOOM! It marked the beginning of a new era. Little did we know that a virus will become a timestamp; now there is a ‘Pre-Covid world, and a ‘Post-Covid’ one(hopefully). That’s how the Coronavirus made a grand entry into our lives. The word normal feels quite abnormal during this quarantined life.

While we all like to believe that the virus is an unpleasant guest and no one knew about its arrival, there is this one man who did speak about such a catastrophe back in the year 2015 – Mr Bill Gates. 

While expressing his views about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, he had said that: 

As awful as this epidemic has been, the next one could be much worse. The world is simply not prepared to deal with a disease—an especially virulent flu, for example—that infects large numbers of people very quickly.

This makes one wonder if we could have done anything different to prevent the widespread loss of life, the unending economic turmoil and the uncertainty of what lies ahead. If we could prepare, how would we?

1. Strengthen the gaps in the health-care system 

The disparity of economic development and the benefits that it rips in the developed nations versus the developing/underdeveloped nations is known to all. The economic backwardness of these nations lead to weak health care systems in the country and thereby pose higher risks to ordinary citizens.

Organisations that work at an international level like the Unites Nations could have taken adequate measures to provide safety cushions in the form of financial as well as non- financial assistance to developing nations which could have aided in building strong pillars of healthcare system. 

2. Change policy decision to set aside a portion of the country’s GDP to set up healthcare infrastructure 

Counting on help from outsiders will never be enough. 

Irrespective of anything, in current times and ahead, the government should shoulder the responsibility to strengthen the healthcare infrastructure by pooling in a portion of GDP every fiscal year. 

For nations like India and China which are at a disadvantage given its large population-size, such preparedness could have been a game-changer in terms of its strategy to contain this virus.

3. Give a hard nudge to Research and Development  

The current situation mirrors the miserable state of human’s existence. While at this moment we couldn’t have been more technologically advanced as compared to any other moment in the space of time, we still live at the misery of the virus.

We tend to sleep on the issues at hand. One classic example is issues related to the environment and how we waited till our surroundings were deteriorated to an alarming rate to accept that sustainable development is our only long term option. 

We definitely need some real-time research and development to happen in the medical field worldwide to protect humanity from such microscopic viruses.

4. Apply technological advancement across all fields of economy

Much before the coronavirus came into existence, the virtual world had become our reality. Only if there was a foresightedness to deploy technology over all major fields like medical-check-ups, platform to sell and deliver essentials, the functioning of corporate offices, media industry, schools & universities, virtual shopping malls, etc. maybe it could have lowered the economic fall down. We had the setup, but did not anticipate our dependency on them.

5. Self-reliance

With international trade taking a hit, self-reliant countries faced lesser issues than those who were highly dependent on other nations. Every leader must endeavour to adapt to the latest advancements happening across the globe and have a plan to imbibe the same in his/her own country sooner than later. 

An initiative so great will become a boon during such unprecedented times.

One might argue that its easy to look back and judge previous actions, than actually anticipating the future and preparing accordingly. However, we had our warning signs before with other diseases. And late last year and early this year, there were conclusive reports making the rounds, where the risks of the virus were outlined. Would we have done a whole lot different if we had the same information we have now?

Mr Gates calls this as the “the first modern pandemic” which can only leave us with a scary thought of the second or more of such pandemic lurking in our future. In that case, all we need to ask is how prepared are we to stand at a war-footing with such viruses.

Presently, COVID-19 is a part of our lives and it is in our best interest to strictly adhere to the healthcare guidelines till a possible solution to combat this virus is discovered. At the same time, it is imperative to start thinking of lessons learned and early preparedness for when, not if, the next pandemic strikes.

Till then, stay safe!