Repercussions of a PandemicBy Eugenia Jordán | Thu, 10/22/2020 - 13:30
We have been trying to live together as a society over the past six months in the face of the health rules implemented in most cities around the world and returning to a "new normality" that seeks to end or at least reduce the spread of COVID-19. The challenge of this year for the world's societies was not minor. States, governments, international organizations, businesses and individuals have not only been affected by the health problem they are sadly infected with, and some, unfortunately, have lost their lives, but also by the serious economic impact it will have.
We have to learn as citizens to live in a society with important health regulations that have altered the way we conduct our work and social relationships. This has a significant effect on the mental health of all those who have been in a lockdown in recent months and, of course, those who are suffering from the disease and need to remain confined. In this regard, by calling for support for the psychosocial well-being of the various affected groups and those in a vulnerable situation in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has expressed the need to address mental health. In the first instance, to avoid the anxiety caused by overreporting, especially fake news and rumors, PAHO stresses the need to keep informed but at the same time to amplify the stories of people who have recovered from the disease. The international organization also recommends recognizing the significance and professional efforts of national and international health teams during the pandemic to avoid unfounded stigmas or fears.
The relationship between adults and children during confinement has also been important. PAHO also recommends constant communication with children by addressing their concerns and providing age-appropriate information to them. The agency stresses the need to provide family members with emotional support to cope with the difficult moments we encountered during the Great Lockdown.
It is possible to analyze the situation from many perspectives and points of view. From the viewpoint of psychology, we can study the relationship of all as individuals and how they face the confinement and the new normality on a personal level. Also, from the economic effect that the health situation will bring not only to our country but to the world and the prevailing economic system. And of course, from political science, we can analyze the effects on governments, regardless of their political spectrum, given the inability to face a challenge like that which the international system has experienced this year.
Social relations have also changed. Today, we cannot carry out all our customary activities. The joint social activities, the parties, the meetings, going to the gym, a simple trip to see a movie, seeing our friends, family or colleagues at work has ended and this has a daily impact on our mood and even the happiness of many.
At the same time, in the face of this lack of social and personal activity the national economy – and that of all countries – has been greatly affected by the current situation. The International Monetary Fund has forecast a contraction in the world's Gross Domestic Product of just over 4 percent, with only a couple of countries managing to pass the 0 percent growth threshold. Latin America is one of the regions most affected by this situation, with an estimated negative growth of -9.4 percent. At the national level, different national and international organizations are debating between -5 percent and -10 percent, depending on how this year ends.
The terrible economic fallout that will be seen during this year is historic, with the comparison being the great crisis of 1929 and much greater than the financial crisis of 2008. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) predicts that the pandemic will have a negative effect on both formal and informal work. At the informal level, it is estimated that up to 80 percent of income will be lost to families in this situation. For the formal sector, the international health crisis has affected 436 million businesses around the world.
These effects will have serious social repercussions that will increase poverty around the world in traditionally affected regions such as Latin America and Africa, but also in developed countries. In our region, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) expects that 12 million people will fall into unemployment, 2 million businesses will be closed, and 28.7 million people will be living in poverty.
Faced with this devastating panorama, the authorities of all countries must face dilemmas both in the area of health – to cure or prevent, to avoid the spread, to provide inputs, to manage the health system – and in the economic area – to restart activities, to support households and businesses, to produce local inputs, to recover the economy. It is from this perspective that this year's health crisis puts into play what has been achieved at the international level in recent years in terms of development and growth and makes us wonder whether the economic, political and social system we are living in is still in place or whether it deserves important deliberation in the face of a necessary change, before time catches up with us and the scenario becomes even more conflictive.
About the author
Luz María Eugenia Jordán Hortube is the Councilwoman of the Office of the Mayor of Benito Juárez in Mexico City and the President of the Digital Innovation Committee . She holds a degree from the Universidad del Valle de México in clinical psychology and has worked, among others, on issues such as domestic violence, destructive relationships, and adolescence. She is passionate about citizens' issues and citizens' participation in their relationship with their authorities, which is why she promoted projects in Mexico City that include the Participatory Budget and the Integration of Citizen Participation Commissions.