Everywhere people are dying, global lockdown and massive government intervention. The coronavirus pandemic is disrupting global industries and supply chains, causing disastrous problems for businesses, consumers and the global economy. Just like the disease is killing older people at high rates, it is also about to kill mature western economies. Businesses are struggling to produce and distribute products and services, that consumers depend on. The coronavirus outbreak has limited our ability to produce and consume goods. Its financial ramifications are already severe and will only get worse. The COVID-19 pandemic will change this decade, just like 9/11 changed the 2000s. The impact from pandemic on global economy will be severe, but eventually the crisis will all end and life will resume. The question what direction will we follow and how prepared will we be when the next one comes along?
Ilias Louis Hatzis is the Founder at Mercato Blockchain Corporation AG and a weekly columnist at DailyFintech.com.
When businesses are unable to make money, they can’t pay employee wages and operating expenses. As business revenues decline, employee layoffs accelerate, which eventually leads to people not being able to pay their rent, mortgage and loans, buy goods and services or spend money at restaurants, sporting events, vacations.
This is not just a health pandemic, it’s a pandemic of fear and mistrust that is hitting advanced economies in Western Europe and the United States. Governments are announcing travel restrictions within their borders and from outside, and are shutting down businesses everywhere. In mature economies, when people become fearful for their lives, they withdraw and stop spending money on things they frequently do. Businesses that operate in face-to-face service industries, which usually dominate high-income economies, are the one’s that get hit the hardest, when people are in lockdown.
This is not to minimize the damage the pandemic is causing to the global product supply chain. The production around the world is out of action for an indefinite period of time. We are already seeing shortages for things like auto-parts, electronics and products like iPhones, and Diet Coke and don’t be surprised when we see disruptions for food, condoms and so many other basic things we take for granted.
In 2015, the year after West Africa’s Ebola outbreak, Bill Gates gave a TED talk called “The next outbreak? We’re not ready.” Gates saw the COVID-19 outbreak coming and he knew we weren’t prepared for it.
“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war,” Gates said during the Ted Talk. “Not missiles, but microbes.”
Authorities around the world are doing their best to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Disease outbreaks can happen at any time and anywhere, with little or no warning. These are events that have occurred in the past and will occur again in the future.
We are facing an uphill battle, but blockchain can help. Blockchain will not prevent new viruses, but it can help create a first line of defense, through a network of connected devices with a single purpose: to alert us about disease outbreaks. The use of blockchain can help prevent pandemics by enabling early detection, fast-tracking drug trials, and impact management of outbreaks and treatment.
Blockchain platforms could help connect local hospitals and health organizations. Local hospitals could record medical data about patients with flu- or virus-like symptoms. The data could be used by health organizations to predict the spread of the virus, to help them take preventive measures (increase medical staff, supply medical equipment) in the areas where the virus could spread.
Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO), IBM and Oracle teamed up to create an open-data hub that will use blockchain technology to check the veracity of data relating to the coronavirus pandemic.
Blockchain based livestock tracking could help to better trace an outbreak at the source, before it becomes impossible to contain. Deadly viruses have originated by contaminated livestock, that made it into our food supply. Imagine how many lives and resources we could save, if we could collect and analyze data to assess livestock risks for various regions.
We could also improve the medical supply chain for products and vaccines. It’s vital to be able to track where things are and where they came from and ensure they are genuine.
Researchers, biotech and pharmaceutical firms are racing against time to create the vaccine for this virus, as well as develop potential treatments for COVID-19. Blockchain based platforms could help vaccine development across various stages starting from exploration to pre-clinical stage, clinical development, regulatory approval to production and distribution and continuous quality control & monitoring.
Like the September 11 terrorist attacks, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the financial collapse of Lehman Brothers, the coronavirus pandemic is a world-shattering event that will lead to permanent shifts in political and financial power.
Many, fear the pandemic will strengthen state control and reinforce nationalism. Governments everywhere are adopting measures to deal with the health and financial crisis, and some governments will find it difficult to give up these new powers, when the crisis is over, similarly to what happened in the wake of 9/11, when civil liberties around the world were trampled.
More than a hundred years ago, in the “The Machine Stops“, E. M. Forster wrote about a dystopian future where humans relied on a machine to provide food, clothing, shelter, and interaction with each other, using audio and visual devices. This story sounds like the present, and the pandemic is pushing us even more in that direction, to become more reliant on the “machine”.
But the coronavirus pandemic is also causing everything to come to a grinding halt. Health care, government and business “machines” are breaking down and stopping. Maybe this is a wake up call, that pushes in the exact opposite direction, away from centralized machines and structures.
The coronavirus global health crisis has the potential to massively disrupt our lives, both economically and socially. I can only hope, we move in the right direction.
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