The walls are closing in from all directions and rapidly. The metaphors usually associated with forces of nature are summoned and put to work to describe the feared anticipations of the effect of COVID-19. India is bracing for an “avalanche” of cases (Bloomberg, March 17) and is now under lockdown, while Malaysia girded for a “tsunami” of situations (Reuters, March 17).
However looked at, this news from most quarters is deeply discouraging. The dilemma and challenge that come before all of us – leaders, citizens, and the fearful – is this: could it be a case of overreaction, or is it the sensible situation of an overabundance of rational caution?
A handful of news articles should serve to convey what encroaches and which tells the grim tale of how things are analysed and concluded.
First, from the New York Post of March 23, the headline speaks to a shrinking world, “NYC restaurants stop offering takeout due to coronavirus crisis.” There are two things that register immediately: the word crisis has now assumed the routine of the everyday, while for NYC to close restaurants first and then to close down the takeout window that was left is to paralyse even more helplessly a place of many that depend on, and live for, the fare of commercially prepared foods.
For the most part, NYC is an eating-out town, with numerous diners and many workers affected negatively, and for which the economic effects are already being felt in person and downstream. For those cosmopolitans, who neither stock up on food supplies nor cook, it has to be a sinking feeling. Thus, the virus spreads in more ways than the physical and the medical, through the wearing down of the psychological.
Next, according to a Barron’s article from March 21, Wall Street experts are not thinking of comparisons to the last market debacle of 2008, the one that dragged down globally, but they are going all the way back to that dreaded time, the horror of 1929. It took forever to recover from that, and this is where the world stands shakily positioned presently. We here in Guyana ignore at our peril, for there are no exceptions whether directly or indirectly, be it medically or financially.
Third, there was coverage from the esteemed Financial Times in its March 23rd issue, which spoke loudly through the title, “A tenth of oil production may become uneconomic.” That could be troubling for Guyana, which is betting so much on oil, and which is near suicidal in its passions on the promises of the product in its seabed.
The outlook is that approximately “revenue from 10 million barrels a day of global supply will not cover the cost of production and payments to governments.”
Exxon did announce that it had to resort to resort to what protects its numbers, which are sure to take the hardest of unwelcome hits. And, to bring us right back to this COVID-19 pestilence in our house, the oil sector is already taking savage body blows from a price war, and falling demand brought about by the virus, which forces many indoors. Predictions come from all over as to the time and extent of the damage that could be wrought. They range from a few months on the low side to closer to a full year on the other end of the scale.
So why are we squabbling, when we should be combining visions and energies to plan for what is ahead? Translation: bipartisanship needed immediately. So why are some articulating and exhibiting what is thoughtless and reckless? Our fellow citizens do so either through dissipation of the serious attention called for, or not contributing their share towards preventing that which possesses a high probability of flooring us.
The evidence is there and in increasing quantities that this apocalyptic landscape is not going away anytime soon. PAHO is calling for a lockdown.
There are those old sayings: discretion is the better part of valour; and he who runs away lives to fight another day. This threat is real and has pushed more advanced societies to the brink. It is better to overreact through an overabundance of wise caution, than to conclude that it is overkill, which is ignored.
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