Opinion – Moving on

We are approaching a full month without a new case of coronavirus. The resolve of both the authorities and the population in facing the epidemic threat is worth of praise. Their determination and a dash of luck contained the menace. The city is starting to move back to normal.

There are still lingering unknowns. Coronaviruses are common; most of them do not represent a problem. How this one will fit in the ‘family’ of those that do, has not been well ascertained yet.

Its behavior specifics, and the corresponding therapeutic protocols and risk profiles still need to be appropriately defined. Specific treatment or cure is not foreseeable yet.

Further, the epidemic is still running its course around the world. The geographic scope of concern is broader and more diffuse now. There is always a risk of a comeback, and there are uncontrollable elements in that risk. 

We have to learn to live with that until, hopefully, sooner rather than later, the epidemics subsides. Either because it vanishes, which appears to be the case of SARS, or because it becomes part of the ‘health landscape’ like a common cold. 

The aftershocks, social, and economic, will complicate the risk assessment of any path for recovery. The impact on local income and employment will be severe, at least in short and, possibly, not-so-short term. The nature of our economy means, as always, that critical factors are beyond our control.

The full extent of the damage to the Chinese economy, from which we depend so crucially, will only start to become apparent in the coming weeks. Health considerations aside, the effects on production, including food production, and income, will have significant impacts on its economy and people’s livelihood.

Available income will suffer, and price pressures will be unavoidable. We will not be immune to that sort of contagion. 

Earlier, the size of the threat and the urgency to contain it as soon as possible made priorities and corresponding actions clearer and somehow easier to set. Now comes a more delicate phase.

As we move on, difficult choices need to be made. As health and economic risks persist and change, the associated costs are harder to assess. The weighting of the pros and cons of different pathways becomes more complex. That is true for both government and private decisions, individual or business-related. What has worked before may not be suitable from now on.