Coronavirus: What it teaches us and possible effects afterwards | 21 April 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has shaken the entire world badly. Nobody has been left untouched by it whether the most developed or the least developed countries, all are facing its destruction. A war-like situation has been created but this is the war needing locking down people in houses to win. The economy is very badly affected. How long it will last is any body’s guess; but we know everything coming to this world has an end sooner or later. Hope it does not cause too much damage.
The countries cannot afford to be locked indefinitely and soon steps will have to be taken to resume work. We definitely do not know when actually it was born in Wuhan, China, as all the news are highly censored in China and the world only learns what China wants to divulge. As per the announcement from China, the virus started in December 2019 from an animal market. The World Health Organisation (WHO), which is the custodian for the health advisory to the world, could not give timely proper caution and even discourage flights to and from China for a long time. Seychelles, however, regardless of the advice, took a very correct decision in cancelling all flights from China to Seychelles as early as February 17, when no passengers including the flight crew were allowed to disembark at Seychelles except Seychelles nationals. Anyone arriving in Seychelles was put under quarantine for 14 days (incubation period of virus) including Seychellois. The health authorities of Seychelles deserve all the appreciation for handling and administering the situation including social distancing fairly early. The action prevented the spread of COVID-19 in Seychelles and the number of infected cases remained at 10 and all these were reported to be imported, until April 5, 2020 when a case was discovered and confirmed to be positive, without any history of travel. This warranted a lockdown, and the order was issued effective from April 8/9 April at midnight.
The many countries which continued flights to and from China as per advice of WHO had to face serious consequences, where the virus spread vigorously took many lives. Many of these countries did not make serious efforts towards preparing themselves as well. Noting the lack of timely action of WHO, many countries are demanding reorganisation of WHO and the US President has alleged the organisation to have a favourable bias towards China. It is up to the international community to act as deem fit.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken a very heavy toll of human life throughout the world. It is also observed that there are some cases that do not show any signs of infection but are the silent carriers of the virus. This in fact is a serious problem for the countries to identify them. Present episode of COVID-19 certainly needs creation of a vaccine and till then the only alternative left is to control close contacts and that is the reason social distancing is being practiced as a safe guard from this deadly virus to control the spread. Lockdown for 21 days is needed to kill the COVID-19, which is highly contagious and spreads through fine and very fine infected fluid droplets sprayed out during coughing, loud laughing or sneezing by the infected person. This virus is also known to cause deaths more among men. As of April 19, over 2.371 million positive cases are reported internationally with 163,085 deaths. It is interesting to note that comparatively the cases are far less looking at the high number of population and health care facilities not so much in developed as in developing countries. The very destruction has been seen in highly developed countries like USA, Italy, Spain, France and many other countries. This is an ideal food for thought for research. What is the cause for such a serious discrepancy?
Seeing the destruction due to COVID-19 a wild thought comes to mind like a hypothetical “Monster Covid”, if created deliberately in the form of a human being – a silent carrier, who otherwise remains healthy and not easily detectable could infect the human life wherever its creator likes. No doubt this is scary. Obviously such an action is not possible in a democratic set up. Such a creator of this ‘Monster Covid’ has to be an ambitious ruthless dictator. Only such a dictator can indulge in such a creation to destroy humans for his/her personal ulterior motives. Such a thing if it happens can cause serious danger to humanity. There is the advantage of democracy, where in the power does not lie in one hand and creation of such a situation becomes almost nonexistent. The greed for power and supremacy promotes corruption. Both the World Wars have caused serious destruction to our sweet little world. If we look at the history of the world, both the World Wars were initiated by dictators because of greed for power and supremacy. It is therefore in the interest of humanity that dictatorship be seriously discouraged and democracy be encouraged, which actually is the rule for a civilised society. Therefore the research or work on viruses needs to be put under some control similar to the atomic power. How the international community deals with it will be interesting to watch. The democratic handling of the COVID-19 is clearly demonstrated in Seychelles, where through press conferences the public is being informed of the actual situation regularly and the important press conferences were being conducted jointly by all the concerned authorities like, security (police), disaster management and health departments. All residents in Seychelles must be indebted to the warriors on the front line in the country. The health workers including doctors, nurses, health care personnel and the sanitary staff are front line staff fighting this deadly virus risking their lives for everyone. Needless to mention the hygiene is very important and frequent hand washing with soap and water (or applying sanitisers) is recommended as a safeguard from COVID-19, because the outer protective wall of COVID-19 is made up of fat which is soluble in soap and the virus dies. That is the reason washing hands with soap for 20 seconds are required.
It is interesting to note that there are not many cases of COVID-19 in Africa (except South Africa) and India where medical and health care facilities are not as much developed as in many advanced countries like USA, Canada, Italy, France, UK and many other countries, where this virus created more havoc. This provides food for researchers to ponder on. What is responsible for the control of this virus in these countries?
Nothing is permanent in this world and this virus will also vanish. Of course it may need time i.e. till the discovery of a vaccine. The production of vaccine and its successful trial may need 12-18 months. Many countries are busy towards this end. There are many other lessons to be learnt if we carefully analyse the situation created by COVID-19. In brief we can list them as follows. The viruses have been existing on this earth since life was created millions of years ago, but were hidden and often it is man who is responsible directly or indirectly for making them active, often accidentally or to satisfy his/her ambitions.
- The world is one global village, where the population of 7.8 billion may be living in any part of it, but is spread in the entire world. The Sanskrit depiction ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ meaning the entire world is one village i.e. the entire world is one family and the people should live as one family with love, creating peace in the world. This is the noblest thought scripted and followed in Hindu scriptures. But the greed for power and supremacy has been destroying this noble thought.
- With the above in mind the entire world will realise the meaning of existence of human kind with peace and love, which may create better understanding and result in more integration and coordination resulting peace in the world. The whole world may feel the need of uniting together and work against the dictators and promoting the democratic society.
- The spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) is highly injurious to mankind and further impresses the need to discourage dictatorship. New realignments of the countries would appear. Many of the countries with dictators will feel threatened and reorganisation of political structure may come up with the new World Order.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) has also cautioned that all manufacturing should not be restricted to one country to avoid dependence on one and need for the items to be manufactured in a wider geographical area for the preservation of mankind. This would result many manufacturing units coming to Asia and Africa where intensive cheap labour is available. Obviously this will lead to development of many countries otherwise less developed at present. Dependence on one geographical area for most of the needs of mankind will disappear resulting in more equitable economic development in the entire world.
- No doubt the spread of COVID-19 is causing serious economic disruption. Though all industrial activities will be affected badly, the multibillion dollar tourism industry will get the maximum blow as tourism does not fall under the essential requirements in life. Food and other living requirements are vital for survival. However the moneyed people will not feel much blow. With continued lockdown internationally, when opened, the people will have great urge to move out and travel to safer places. In this respect Seychelles can expect greater influx of tourists from higher level of society which may result greater per head expense by visitors. Though these visitors would prefer four and five-star accommodation. There is an ideal opportunity for Seychelles to promote itself as being one of the safest countries (few COVID-19 cases without any casualty) in the Indian Ocean region, with 98.4% purity in atmosphere, which might have further improved due to lockdown. This opportunity should not be taken lightly and all efforts be made to use it for its benefit as the high end of society will prefer tourist places least touched not only by human beings but by coronavirus (COVID-19) as well and providing natural environment lacking in Europe. Aggressive promotion in Europe is expected to give good dividends. At the same time alternative markets also need to be tapped. Suddenly marriage season in India, which was stopped due to corona, will crop up and newlyweds will be looking for honeymoon places like Seychelles. Special incentives if offered may further boost tourism from high end society.
- In general long distance travel may get reduced in view of increasing cost of air fares for the common travellers starved with money. National tourism will be more popular. Only those country residents where there is not much scope of national tourism will travel to other countries and the safe countries will get preference. Here again Seychelles will be preferred. Air Seychelles can play a major role in this respect.
- Most of the tourists visiting our shores at least initially will be from high end society preferring five-star accommodations, though the overall arrivals will sharply decline, but the expenditure per visitor may improve considerably – a welcome boom for Seychelles. The volume may be restricted affecting seriously the forex earnings for the country. The country needs special attention to this aspect as to how to promote aggressively. Seychelles’ purity of environment with 98.4% purity in atmosphere and the most safest in the Indian Ocean (indicating its very low record of COVID-19 infections without any casualty) making it most attractive among the Indian Ocean islands – a big plus can be used for promoting the destination. The small guest houses are expected to suffer the big blow. Tourism in Seychelles is 65% and in fact main bread and butter for the country. Seychelles will have to diversify and cannot depend so much on tourism. This impresses the need for various other fields to develop.
- Food security is one of the aspects Seychelles will have to consider seriously as we are a net import country for most of our food items. The agriculture needs special attention and in spite of limited land, new techniques will have to be adopted to improve yield per acre. In this respect the Israeli model needs to be looked into by the agriculture ministry and Seychelles may seek help from countries like Israel, where much of the unfertile land was converted to prolific fertile producing crops on a large scale. It may be not out of point to mention here that Ratnagiri area on the west coast of India, where people were encouraged to throw the seeds of mangoes after eating, has become a fertile mango yielder producing one of the best mangoes. Similar policy could be adopted in Seychelles encouraging people to throw seeds of fruits in particular mango on the ground to convert into mango orchards. The fruit items like mango, banana, avocado, papaya, pineapples, lemons, star fruit, soursop, egg fruit, bread fruit, golden apples, and many other tropical fruits are encouraged to produce in the country. The farmers may need special incentives in this regard – another food for thought. Volumes above the personal consumption could find export market. Similarly the washing soap manufacturers in Seychelles are encouraged to manufacture not only washing soap but bath soaps as well. In post corona times more and more soap will be needed. Schemes like eating of indigenous grown products preferably from own kitchen gardens in homes at least for one or two days in a week will improve the food security giving national pride as well.
- Seychelles should identify projects related to import substitution and export oriented projects which further need encouragement for the Seychellois entrepreneurs. Milk is another commodity which needs consideration for the development. High yielding cows need to be imported and one of the inner islands can be developed as Milk Island, where milk and milk products can be produced. This may also be a tourist attraction as well.
- During lockdowns various countries were adopting work from home and this culture of working from home may get more popular, helping lesser number of cars and congestion on road and improvement on environment. The pollution caused by the cars may get reduced and the consumption of oil will also be reduced. All this will no doubt have positive effect on the oil import bills of countries. The technology will further get boost and the companies dealing with technology and computer related companies will get more business opportunities.
- On line education, meetings and business will be quite common. This may off course reduce the expenditure on infrastructure and in particular specialized courses may get a boost. Similarly shopping commonly adopted creating more work for the post offices and courier companies.
- The importance of environment will further gain realization and countries will be forced to give thought on the global warming. With more consciousness for environment there is expected to be improvement on development of forests and greenery. The eco system and fauna/flora will improve a lot. The animals will have more favourable living conditions and would thank the situation.
- The online banking may become more popular and the physical existence of big banking structures may not be needed. Face to face interaction will get considerably reduced with much less visits of clients to the bank, which may need reduction in bank staff to some extent.
- Many airlines will merge and many will have to close down, further affecting the consumption of oil. The seating arrangement in aircraft will have to be improved with distance socializing increasing considerably the air fares, which may have detrimental effect on long haul tourism.
- To overcome the hardships the students will have to devote time in earnings in addition to studies and there is possibility of distant learning also becoming more popular.
- The World is expected to enter severe recession which could be worse than the financial crisis of 2008. Many small countries will get seriously affected resulting in creating more difficulties and inflation. We will see many mergers and many businesses in particular smaller ones closing down. The effect will be pronounced more on countries like Seychelles, with 65% dependent on tourism. Even after when the things start getting back to normal tourism will take a long time, probably up to 12 to 18 months, and that too may be difficult to reach its level before COVID-19 as the money in pockets will be much less and most of the people will find it difficult to make both ends meet. Most of the crunch will fall on small guest houses and small hotels patronized by middle class tourists. With the spending power getting considerably reduced only the essential needs will get priority for a common man. This may increase stresses and more patients with mental illnesses will be seen in hospitals, which may also result in hypertension and heart related diseases. These conditions are likely to promote Yoga and Meditation. People will become more conscious of health. These may need more doctors and health personnel with unsustainable burden on many countries. Need for more medical colleges and health care institutions may arise.
- There will be realignment of countries and new power blocks may emerge. China may be an important player and may try to exert its supremacy, which may not be easily acceptable by the world. Power hungry countries will try to develop different ways and means including biological weapons needing the international community to device means to check on this issue. Many factories may be relocated from China giving opportunity to countries with cheap labour forcing the countries to get developed and ease the employment in those countries and affecting employment in China. South Korea has already started discussing relocation of its factories from China to India and Japan is offering two billion dollars to its factors to be brought to Japan from China. This will further have negative impact on economy of China.
- Republicans are likely to lose importance and power may go in the hands of democrats in USA in the forthcoming elections due to high number of casualties at present in USA and lack of better handling of COVID-19 in the country. There is strong possibility of restructuring of United Nations as well.
- Spirituality will increase and people will get more inclined to spiritualism and become health conscious. The practice of shaking hands and western way of greetings will be things of the past replaced by Namaste or similar way of distant greetings. With Yoga and meditation becoming more popular, India may gain more importance and may play an important role on the international scene. Africa may offer opportunities for establishing more manufacturing units to avoid the monopoly of China leading to more development in this continent.
- There will be effect on terrorism which may reduce considerably and the attention will be more towards peace unless state support terrorism.
- Although unemployment may increase initially after the COVID-19 effect is subsided, but with more structures and factories developing in Asia and Africa these countries will provide better employment opportunities and many of these countries will benefit.
- It is worth appreciating that there are no COVID-related deaths in Seychelles due to timely and proactive actions of health authorities, which need to be appreciated. The health care system in Seychelles may need more resources as the country cannot afford any complacency. The tourism industry in post corona times will need more vigilance on airport and ports because for Seychelles Europe is the main market and all the visitors coming on shore will have to be 100% checked through fast methods.
- We also need to be ready for the recurrence of COVID-19 if it happens.
Life in Seychelles after coronavirus:
If we summarize the life in Seychelles during post Corona times it is expected to be very hard due to lesser earnings of foreign exchange with lesser number of tourists coming to our shores, though high end tourism will again get boost and it is up to Seychelles on how efficiently the destination is promoted. Some thoughts have already been given above. Work from home culture will get more popular affecting lesser number of cars on the roads. Digital socializing will be more popular with Seychellois staying more in their homes. With more distant socializing getting the order of the day and Seychellois will get more conscious of this aspect and lesser money in the pockets, visits to restaurants will be reduced considerably. The Seychellois will become more family oriented society. Staying more at home will increase more consumption of beer and other alcoholic drinks. Indigenous food products are expected to be more popular in comparison to imported stuff. Telephone and internet service providers can expect improvement in business and should restructure the existing schemes to make the digital use more popular. Similarly the television service providers can also expect more business. The tourism destination and other companies may have to reduce the staff which may cause unemployment and alternative employment opportunities will have to be created. This will create some burden on social relief. Therefore projects as mentioned above may have to be looked into both by private and public sectors. Banks may have to play an important role in this regard. Online shopping may get more acceptance and may create opportunities towards delivery system. There is good news also that oil price internationally has come down over 50% and any devaluation of Seychelles Rupee (at present about 23%) may be helpful and Seychellois may expect decrease in petrol price on the pumps as more than 27% (>50-23%=27%) cushion is available to Seychelles giving some relief. It is hoped this important aspect will be taken care by Seypec to give some relief to the public. Tax collection may have to be improved. Payment by Credit or Debit cards may find more popularity to avoid touch of currency and needs to be encouraged to stop leakages of tax payments.In short Seychelles has to get ready for a life to be hard in the near future at least for 2020 and 2021 till the economy gets a boost and change in home budgeting will be needed. Hopefully Central Bank will try to arrest inflation in the country.
Contributed by Surya Khanna
Jeo Jyoti Foundation, Seychelles
The views and claims in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Seychelles NATION newspaper.