Impact of COVID-19

By THO Academic Liaison, Abdul Abbas

     As the virus known as “COVID-19” spreads across the globe, it is imperative to understand the ramifications it’s had on international relations, financial markets, and the everyday lives of humans everywhere. The damage COVID-19 has dealt to international stock markets likens that of the 2008 collapse of the Lehman Brothers and beyond, and estimates as to when markets will recover are highly optimistic at best.

      To put it plainly, COVID-19 has called a bluff on all major nations. It uncovered the U.S’ unpreparedness for disaster relief, it has shown the noncompliant nature of the American and Canadian populations, it’s highlighted the cracks within the EU, and it may have created an irreparable rift between American and Chinese trade markets. The western nations, as well as superpowers like Russia and China have much to learn from the proactive strategy of Southeast Asian nations. Countries like Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam treated the virus as a serious threat from the beginning and worked to contain it at any cost, and never once compromised the safety of their people. 

The list below highlights the major shifts in international relations caused by COVID-19: 

1.     The U.S.’ failed call to action will severely damage its reputation as a world leader, as party leaders during an election year have chosen to use the virus as an opportunity to play politics rather than focus on the American lives at stake. The downplaying done by the current administration shows that they’d rather mislead the public for collective mental peace than be honest and straightforward with the threat COVID-19 poses. Regardless of who’s in office come November, a renewed sense of self-reliance will spread through America as it’s become clear that international supply chains cannot be depended on in times of crisis. 

2.     Shifting to our Eastern neighbors ‘across the pond’, the EU’s mismanagement of relief to suffering countries like Italy is sobering to say the least. In response to the lackluster aid the EU has offered Italy during this time of crisis, Italian Prime Minister Conte warned that “If Europe does not show itself to be up to this task, the whole European project risks losing its raison d'être in the eyes of our own citizens.” The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “raison d'être” as the “reason or justification of existence”, which should echo deeply through the EU chambers.

3.     Due to international caution of investing and trading in Chinese markets due to the fact Wuhan was the epicenter of the virus, severe drops in consumer goods, industrial production, investment in infrastructure and manufacturing, amongst many other sectors, has resulted in the first contraction of the Chinese economy since 1976. (CNN)

4.     As COVID-19 began to create small scale panic in early January, oil prices began to drop as the pandemic caused a decrease in demand for all commodities, including oil. Due to this fall in international demand, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) proposed a cut in oil production so as to not overflood the market with excess oil, which oil-producer Russia refused. This public refusal caused consumer confidence to freefall in international markets. Simply put, the COVID-19 scare created a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which resulted in the largest single day drop in Dow Jones history. This is an example of lacking cooperation that must be avoided, as the bottom line should not be profit but the security of people. 

      COVID-19 has lifted the metaphorical car hood of international governments, uncovering to the world what’s working and what isn’t. On the one hand, we now know that disaster preparedness for Western nations is woefully absent, but we are comforted by stories of people and leaders providing aid and safety to our most vulnerable. Global crisis’ requires global solutions, COVID-19 doesn’t care for liberals or conservatives, nor does it respect international borders, and the priority of the international community should be a joint-cooperative effort in finding a vaccine as soon as possible. 

      In the meantime, there are extraordinary stories of acts of kindness between people and between nations. One of the many humanitarian acts done to curb the spread of the virus was by Turkey, where 26,000 COVID-19 test kits were dispatched to Colombia by Turkish government officials. Another example would be the generous donation of 500,000 COVID-19 test kits and one million breathing masks being sent to the U.S.A by Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma. If there is one thing this virus should teach us, it’s how deeply we rely on our global health care professionals and their dedication to the Hippocratic Oath, and we must show our gratitude. 

Even during these dark times, the human spirit prevails.