COVID-19 requires an unprecedented response

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By Michael J. Hadjihannas

In a fight against time, three months since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, COVID-19 is going strong and has now spread to over 196 countries, including the major players with a strong impact on the global economy.

Governments around the world are making tremendous efforts to stop the spread of the disease and we’re witnessing unprecedented measures, never before seen in modern history.

Entire countries are on full lockdown, borders are closed, international travel severely restricted and in some cases – like Cyprus, fully suspended.

Mandatory quarantine is imposed in major European countries and there is a serious concern that the health systems are overwhelmed, to a point where patients are no longer admitted to hospitals.

For the first time in contemporary history, there are no public gatherings; concerts, parades, cultural and sporting events are either cancelled or held without fans. Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed for 2021.

Disneyland theme parks, not only in China but in Paris and the US as well, are closed, some indefinitely.

The English Premier League, the UEFA and the NBA are postponing games, until further notice.

Movie premiers are cancelled and rescheduled for the next year, even the long-awaited 2020 James Bond 007.

Schools and universities are temporarily closed, and an admirable number of businesses are choosing to advise their staff to work from home.

COVID-19 does not discriminate, everyone is at risk of getting sick – rich or poor, powerful or not, odds are the same for all – politicians, celebrities, sports stars, actors, as much as the ordinary people.

The extent of the socioeconomic impact of the new coronavirus is still unknown. Emergency governmental legislations are put in place to protect the economy – trillions are being assigned as financial aid for the public health sector, private businesses, Social Insurance funds, ensuring survival for small and medium businesses and enterprises, as well as for the working people, to cover for sick leave allowance, unemployment benefits and especially to offer support for the vulnerable groups within the community.

This pandemic will go down in history not only as a reminder of how fragile life is but also for the support, positivity and unity people worldwide are showing to each other.

Entire neighbourhoods are lifting each other up with a song, encouraging messages, while public figures are donating money and medical equipment worldwide.

As a direct consequence of this pandemic, almost every day is being marked as a ‘first time in modern history’ for something.

Thanks to the unity we are all witnessing around the planet, it could also be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled.

We are not at the mercy of this virus.

The decisions we all make – as governments, businesses, communities, families and individuals – can influence the trajectory of this epidemic.

We need to remember that with decisive, early action, we can slow down the virus and prevent further infections.

Franklin D. Roosevelt inspired millions since his inaugural address in 1933 with his famous quote that ‘there’s nothing to fear but fear itself’.

Widespread and mounting fear is indeed what keeps us at home, slowing the spread of the deadly coronavirus, buying us time to slow down the rising curve of infections and helping healthcare workers in getting closer to a working treatment and a vaccine, while there are still beds available in medical facilities.

The writer is Managing Director at FinExpertiza Cyprus