Covid-19 and Our Community: Phase II

Annegret Dettwiler-Danspeckgruber
Publication type
Pull Quote

The new normal might not begin where we left off - certainly not in the next 12 months. We will head back to some basics, and to a different new normal, questioning aspects of globalization versus dependence on the professional, community, and national level. The age of supposed unconstrained access to supplies and markets has been proven illusionary,  and demonstrates vulnerability. 


With all the information we constantly receive – from Coronavirus infection to mortality, to the various medical treatments and the developments of vaccines, to the multitude of hair-raising consequences of the pandemic, from social, to economic and financial problems – it has become already clear that this is an event of historic and global proportions; a Change! Despite early warnings – since December 2019 - the coronavirus SARS2 -COVID 19 has become a textbook exogenous shock for our national and international system – from the USA, to EU Europe, to the world, paralyzing the UN – within states and between them. From the very global down to the smallest unit: the family. The repercussions are beyond description or grasp as of yet, and for much we find ourselves still at the beginning. Remember an important truism: scio nihil scire – I know that I don’t know – that I don’t have an answer, yet.

It will take its good time until working medical treatment and immunization to effectively attack and neutralize the Coronavirus Covid-19 – which twists, and turns, and evades in a malign, weapon-like manner, surfacing and attacking in ever new pathologic dimensions; the role of infection carrying animals will have to be addressed as well. It will take much longer still to adapt our wounded system and assuage the real fallout of the pandemic’s impact. Besides its primary health and social consequences, there are enormous secondary and tertiary effects – from socio-political to economic, to wider scale and longer-term ramifications like for employment, trade, transport, infrastructure, technology, energy, and geopolitics. It will require incisive adjustments to address the important remnants: from adaptation of inter-humanitarian relations and customs to the rapid introduction of very advanced technologies (– up to industrialization 4.0) – much will be here to stay; “The 22nd century has cometh upon us.”

Today we face a challenging dichotomy: On the one hand, for many and much it is ‘back to basics,’ back to the essential - to one’s health, family, home, and neighborhood. On the other, it means adapting and quickly accepting some of the most advanced technologies available – from cyber communications to virtual conferencing, -education, -business, and even virtual-medical and -psychological services, to rapidly introduced robotics, and increasing the use of AI. In inter-humanitarian relations, the abrupt absence of direct eye-to-eye personal contact and a hasty halt to close physical inter-human-interaction, has imposed a sudden challenge on many of us – within and between all generations. While being sequestered with loved ones and family one has to work and interact with colleagues, bosses, business contacts and friends merely on cyber, virtually - without direct human chemistry.  The longer that lasts, while being continuously confronted with ever more perplexing news - both positive and negative - the more mounts one’s restlessness and intent to tackle the mental and emotional confines of quarantine and isolation: just wanting to get out and back. – “Enough already,” I hear increasingly and ever louder – However: don’t rush!  Eile mit Weile – let us take our good time ...

With mounting ‘cabin fever’ and already imagining a ‘proverbial ‘light’ at the aspired “end” arises the urge to move on, back, and out!  Most importantly to diminish the economic and financial fall out.  Yet, this confronts us with the eminently critical choice: a possible trade-off between growth and health! [Except:] reopening the economy too soon [would] achieve[s] neither;” plus contribute only to “sharply enhance the chances of a second wave of the Coronavirus” epidemic.[1] But, let us introduce here a hopeful development: the longer the pandemic takes, the more one obtains through cooperation accumulated experiences, the better one becomes equipped in knowledge and experience of men, quality and appropriateness of materials and strategy against a high agile, aggressive virus. One benefits from “learning by doing” through accumulation of experience and adaptation. But attrition also enhances the importance of human reserves, resolve, and discipline, plus the possibility to replenish materiel and improve tools and treatment strategy.

A carefully considered reduction of the lock down – with continued rigorous sanitary rules – should really be undertaken merely, once the known infection rate is down to 1 or below (meaning: 1 infected person does not infect more than 1 other person) and has been there for at least 14 days. Intense testing is key in order to have a relative realistic picture of level of infection and also the preparedness of the medical care. This has to continue until an effective vaccine combined with an appropriate treatment has been developed, which means that we will have to deal with the issue for 12 months at the very least. It is important to remember “In war, truth is the first casualty” – information has to be evaluated critically, since typically in any major crisis, there is too much attraction and temptation inviting distortions and manipulations for whatever purposes and interests, politically, strategically – and personally. This does however not necessarily contribute to a clearer picture of reality nor to facilitate a more effective treatment strategy – on the contrary: it may contribute to damaging confusion.  

The next months will be dominated by varying attempts in our communities to move onward and forward, to trump fear and failure with hope and success. There will not, nor should there be a quick end to lock downs or curbs – as one should not “’gamble away’ the advantage of timely action” in the words of Angela Merkel.[2]  But while the coronavirus has pointed out the major and glaring flaws of much in our overheated materialistic society and overextended reliance on an imperfect globalized economy and globalized order damaging to humans and the environment— it may at the end come to the query how can we adapt, what do we retain, and learn for the design of a post-Covid-19 world – from communal to global relations, to the environment? 

Remember: it is not what the coronavirus does to us, but what we make out of its trials and our success.


[1] Edward Luce, “Trump cannot force American consumers to swallow their fears,” Financial Times, 24 April 2020, p. 3

[2] “Merkel warns on quick end to curbs,” Financial Times, 24 April 2020, p.2