Lancet, Covid-19, social and economic potential

Extract from an article in The Lancet, titled:

COVID-19 and the moral imagination

Mahomed Said Patel and Christine Beatrice Phillips

Published: January 22, 2021




As Arundhati Roy has highlighted, “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one [COVID-19] is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice…and dead ideas…Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”1

Pandemics spread along fault lines created by the way we live—inequities in wealth, health, social protection, and access to basic services.2,3

Through concerted efforts the knowledge and technologies to respond to COVID-19 are being amassed. Whether we are up to the challenge of avoiding the next global crisis is another question.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been described by Reinhard Mechler and colleagues4 as a manifestation of “compound, systemic and existential” risks, resulting from multiple inter-related determinants, threatening coping capacities and jeopardising livelihoods for whole societies. Epidemics, along with other interconnected systemic risks, such as hunger, food insecurity, economic meltdowns, climate-related disasters, and large-scale involuntary migration, are likely to increase in frequency and severity in the future.4,5,6

In July, 2020, the Lancet COVID-19 Commission issued a statement to assist governments, civil society, and UN institutions in framing their response to the COVID-19 pandemic,2 setting out “practical solutions” and some radical ideas on deep restructuring of global finances, strengthening international collaborations, driving a green recovery, and accelerating the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement.

As we deliberate on how such ideas can inform policies in the current global context, it is instructive to consider the past. Previous pandemics led to revolutionary reforms: improved living and working conditions for labourers in Europe after the 14th-century epidemics of plague,7 transformations in sanitation systems in the UK after the 1832–66 cholera epidemics,8 and the introduction of affordable public housing in New York after the 1918–19 influenza epidemic.9

But such transformations are not inevitable. Cholera epidemics since the late 20th century have not secured safe water and sanitation consistently across global risk zones, but resulted in effective biomedical interventions such as oral rehydration solutions, antibiotics, and vaccines.10

A decade ago, it was suggested that the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa might drive radical social change processes to mitigate individual and population vulnerability; instead, technical innovations such as drug therapies and diagnostics have largely dominated the intervention repertoire.11

The COVID-19 pandemic offers what Ulrich Beck termed a “cosmopolitan moment”, when the existing order is destabilised to open up a new arena of moral and political responsibility. 12

In this cosmopolitan moment, the global community could come together to create new institutions or mechanisms to address the structural causes of global inequity and promote the wellbeing of people and the planet.

…End of extract.

For more, please go here:



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