Uncertainty and fear are the dominant response to the new coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the world’s economies. It is perhaps the first time in world history that all nations find themselves facing the same threat to public health and the economy at the same time. Meanwhile, no one seems capable of offering any meaningful hope that the pandemic can be contained. As a result, the grim present and the nebulous future make for a bleak mix that leaves ordinary people with very little room for dreams and expectations. This is unfortunately what the world looks like at the moment. One can only hope that things will start to improve sooner than it seems at the present juncture.
Sure, any analysis must first focus on the health dimension – not only because of the rising death toll resulting from the coronavirus, but also because of how its spread is rapidly spawning economic disaster in its wake. No institution or expert can provide any guarantees regarding how the disease can be treated, about how it will behave or how long it will be around. The only certainties are that Covid-19 spreads very quickly, that the elderly and those with pre-existing health issues are at a higher risk from the virus, that no one is totally immune, and that self-isolation is the most effective way of preventing it from spreading.
There is no guarantee that the coronavirus will disappear in the summer as temperatures start to rise, no guarantee that people who have been infected are now immune, or that we are near the discovery of a vaccine or drug. In that sense, a lot depends on the duration and the intensity of the pandemic – particularly the global economy, including Greece. That the spread of the virus is shutting down the world’s biggest economies one after the other is unprecedented. There is no sign of any powerful factor that could spur the rest forward the day after.
Then there is the attempt at a liquidity injection aimed at maintaining or boosting the economy. But, first of all, we don’t know if it has the right ingredients, and, secondly, we don’t know if it will pay off.
Europe’s reaction to all that has been disheartening. Some signs of elementary solidarity last week gave way to confrontation over the way in which we should deal with the economic disaster. Thankfully, the European Central Bank is a step ahead in taking the necessary relief measures, but future generations will certainly have to foot the bill for the damage, regardless of what the Union will look like at that time.