Notice how words like ‘post pandemic’, ‘post-virus era’ or ‘recovery’ are sifting in through the media? There’s a growing sense that we’ve made it through to the other side already.
It’s true we are starting to ease restrictions, returning to a somewhat normal state in the economy.
Yet all of this is because of the massive action governments and central banks have taken to prop up the economy during lockdown.
It’s why I don’t think we’re out of the woods yet, and plenty could still happen.
We are likely to feel the economic repercussions from the lockdown for months to come.
And, we still don’t have a vaccine; this will take months or longer.
With all this talk of a recovery, a resurgence of the virus would be a massive shock.
Yet a second wave is something that happened during the 1918 pandemic, which killed around 50 million all over the world.
As you can see below, the UK saw three waves of the Spanish flu. The second, much deadlier one, came after months of recording lower death numbers.
Of course, while the Spanish flu is the closest point of comparison we have with COVID-19, there are a lot of differences.
For one, the last pandemic mostly attacked younger people aged 20–40, who were the main working population. COVID-19, on the other hand, seems to be more lethal to the elderly.
Today we can count on technology
At the time, the First World War was raging, which meant that people had poor diets and less access to good hygiene. Health wasn’t also as advanced, viruses were quite new back then and there weren’t any antibiotics.
And, of course, today we can count on technology.
We have more information available at our fingertips, we can avoid areas and isolate clusters to stop transmission.
We are also more globally interconnected than back then, but also travelling around the world is much quicker, which means the virus can also spread much faster than 100 years ago.
While the Spanish flu in 1918 managed to make it to Australia’s shores, it wasn’t as deadly to this country as it was to the rest of the world. While the world’s mortality death rate for the Spanish flu stood between 1% and 2.5%, for Australia it was much lower, 0.3%.
The fact that Australia was far away from the world meant that they could implement a strict quarantine. We’re experiencing something similar today, Australia being far away from the rest of the world is paying off.
But still, until there is a vaccine, our only tools are social distancing and hygiene…and more government spending.
RBA’s Phillip Lowe spoke this week at the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19.
Mainly to ask government to keep up fiscal spending as there are questions as to what will happen when JobKeeper stops in September.
He also pushed for more infrastructure spending.
Last week I wrote about how interest rates have been low for quite some time and how that makes savings less attractive for consumers. Low rates may be bad for savers, but it has some advantages for governments in that it allows them to borrow and pay less money on interest rate payments. It also creates jobs.
We already had quite a lot of infrastructure spending as the Australian government had pledged $100 billion over 10 years from FY2019–20 on transport infrastructure across Australia. Both Victoria and Queensland have already announced more infrastructure spending.
It will be interesting to see where future infrastructure spending goes. Our cities are places where we congregate for work and leisure. They’ve also been a magnet for tourists, but it’s likely that won’t be the case for quite some time now.
We could see more infrastructure spending designed to take people away from the city centres, to increase services transport to expand cities in an effort to create more physical space.
Also, more spending to bring some of the manufacturing supply chains closer to home.
COVID-19 will be a catalyst for change, or as you heard from Ryan yesterday, a collision point. That is, an event that will change the path of the future.
The pandemic is set to bring a lot of changes, and innovation.
Today, we continue with Ryan Dinse’s part three of the video series on how ‘synbio’ could change the way we tackle health pandemics in the future.
Scroll down for part three of the video series and an essay from Ryan Clarkson-Ledward.