What before the next pandemic?

Kari Liuhto,
Professor & Director,
University of Turku & Centrum Balticum Foundation,

In the spring of 2020, professors Marin Marinov and Svetla Marinova edited a book published by Routledge, titled COVID-19 and International Business: Change of Era. Not only did the 50 experts in this edited book manage to predict the effects of the pandemic on international business, they also managed to predict its progression. Due to the terrible human and economic cost of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should consider the following before the next pandemic breaks out.

(1) Don’t vote for populists: The corona pandemic has been especially deadly in states where leaders have ignored expert advice and opted to act on their personal beliefs. These false beliefs have led to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths. Since it is impossible for advisors to guide a populist in a position of power, vote responsibly.

(2) Improve the credibility of authorities: There is a dire need of a change in attitudes or, failing that, more severe punishments: regrettably many countries are dealing with citizens who do not trust the offered vaccines or follow the official guidelines issued by authorities. Individual rights should not override an entire community’s right to a safe life.

(3) Be mindful of communications: Communications during the corona pandemic have been unclear and inconsistent. Crisis communications should focus on short, clear messages that focus on the essential. When instructions are too complicated, people have a hard time following them. Unclear and insufficient communications also give people the impression that authorities do not have a handle on the situation.

(4) Closer international co-operation: A pandemic is by definition a global epidemic. So it has been confusing to witness how even neighbouring states have addressed the pandemic with significantly varying measures. You cannot put out a fire in an apartment block if the tenants of one floor are not doing their part. This is why we need to have clear rules on when to report to WHO about a local epidemic outbreak, and a harsh punishment for neglecting to make that report. In addition, we need rules on the minimum measures for battling a pandemic. We also need an educational package for national authorities developed by WHO.

(5) Minimise travel during the pandemic: Since SARS type viruses spread through human interaction, we need to minimise the amount of travel. Since we cannot prevent all travel, we should create a vaccine passport. We should also develop regional travel bubbles. From the perspective of national economies, it makes more sense to keep societies running with the help of COVID-19 bubbles and provide state aid to enterprises and people suffering from the restrictions rather than let the virus spread through tourism. We should have an international funding mechanism to compensate some of the lost tourism revenue to countries most dependent on the tourist income.

(6) Don’t forget the poorest ones: As long as the virus is running rampant in Third World countries, it will bounce back to developed countries over again. If developed countries do not invest more heavily in the efforts to battle the virus in poor countries, there is a risk that the virus will mutate into a variant that spreads even quicker, becomes more deadly or becomes immune to the current vaccines. It is also essential to support the underprivileged within each country.

(7) Be prepared for a pandemic well in advance: We need to be prepared to go to war against a virus well before there is a pandemic. States should focus even more of their investments in health care systems and the security of supply of medicine. If we only start to put together a fire department when there is a fire, we are hopelessly late.

(8) Don’t let your guard down: The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic will take years, which is why we cannot let our guard down. Experiences from several states have shown that a safe corona status can turn into a nightmare within a few weeks.

(9) Work together: Humanity is now better prepared to fight against pandemics than in any previous century. On the flip side, nations are more connected than ever before. If we want to prevent the stop of globalisation, we need to stop navel-gazing – thus, The World First.

(10) Make a plan now how to transfer to the ‘new normal’ after the pandemic: Even though the pandemic is still in full swing, we should already be planning what the ‘new normal’ after the pandemic will be like and how we will get there. We need to be able to stop nations’ spiral into over-indebtedness spurred by the pandemic or we will be facing a pandemic of the global economy.

The article series by the Centrum Balticum Foundation has featured many reports on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected countries along the coast of the Baltic Sea.


If you would like to write an article for the publication series, please contact me.

Email: Kari.Liuhto@utu.fi

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