In any crisis there are winners as well as losers.
Clearly the ones who are suffering most directly are those catching the virus, those dying from it and those losing loved ones to it. Each and every case is a personal tragedy.
Also directly affected are those losing freedom to move around, be with loved ones and those losing their lively hoods from it.
Equally there are those who are dedicating a big chunk of their lives to making things better for the rest of us. The health workers on the front line, the scientists working flat out for vaccines and tests. The politicians, journalists and business leaders working to keep us informed and balance a whole suite of difficult decisions, trying to help us keep safe.
To all of those on the front, second and third line of this challenge we give our endless apprecation.
If we lift our gaze a little we can see other longer term winners and losers too.
One of the most significant potential winners is the climate and the ecosystem. With fewer flights and journeys, with fewer tourists and travellers carbon and nitrogen emissions are plummeting, air and water quality are improving. With restaurants closed demand for fish has dropped. It will be fascinating to see how wildlife benefits from this moment.
The flip side of all of these winners is the loss to airlines and the travel industry more broadly. Once businesses adapt to virtual meetings and remote working it is hard to see business travel ever returning to its previous levels of growth.
With so many people working from home we may find that flexible working practices suit us and that the daily commute to spend your day on calls and responding to emails, that you could do from anywhere, is not so important. Accelerating this shift will reduce stress on cities and public transport and improve air quality.
Although all attention is understandably focussed on the virus, we can be hopeful that there will be lasting benefits to the climate, that could give us more time to find solutions and help us understand the impact of reduced emissions. If global temperature levels don’t break new records in 2020 0r 2021, as they have done every year recently, it will give hope and proof that we can make a difference. The drastic actions taken by governments will also prove that they can lead effectively, in the face of a crisis, especially when it is done is a collaborative international environment.
Restaurants and the high street more broadly will lose out badly to online alternatives. Conversely food delivery and online shopping will make gains that they are unlikely to give up. The nature of our high streets is likely to change irrevocably.
Social isolation will be a huge challenge, especially for teens many of whom will have to endure a big blank in their social development and the elderly, who even if they don’t get sick may suffer other consequences from being alone.
Online services that provide entertainment and communication to housebound kids, adults and elderly will all boom – online gaming, streaming and video calling will all expand and become increasingly vital. Although the production of movies and TV shows are being paused or halted by the need for social distancing – which is already leading to an expansion of less formal content on Tiktok YouTube and other platforms.
Manufacturers of anything that is not medically essential seem likely to take a huge hit as factories are forced to close under lock down conditions. Much of the oil industry will take a hit too. Saudi and the Russian producers appear to see this as an opportunity to drive competitors out of business by increasing production at a time of reducing demand, an acton which has already driven the price to 17 year lows.
The finance sector is in turmoil trying to cope with unprecedented levels of unpredictability – there will be winners and losers as some bets pay off and others fail. Shares and funds heavily weighted to travel and oil may never recover to pre Corona levels. Banks will be asked to carry debt and businesses and individuals struggle to keep up, but governments will not let them fail.
As for the disease itself it seems likely that the virus will continue to circulate until there is a widely distributed vaccine. Herd immunity will offer some protection eventually but the cost in deaths of allowing that to be the solution is far, far too high. There will be other creative solutions as well such as social distancing apps that help us know who is safe to be with and who is not.
The greatest hope of all is for unity. Paradoxically it appears that globalisation was one of the drivers of a wave of renewed nationalism around the world over the last few years. Perhaps a common “enemy” can persuade us that we have more in common and that unity better than division.
Just maybe Coronavirus will be a first crack in the religion of money. Government actions show us that, when required, money is not in short supply. Government prioritisation is driven by care not cash. When a government cares about something it gets funding. Money, unlike viruses or climates, is a human invention where we get to make up the rules, not biology or physics. If we want to change the rules around money – we can. Money is a choice not a fact.
Please do all that you can to stay healthy and safe.
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We have moved all of our work to virtual delivery so that we can continue supporting our clients within the restrictions we must observe for the benefit of all. We would love to hear from anyone who would like to collaborate with us in this purpose.
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