The repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic in all areas of our societies are likely to be felt for years to come. Based on interviews with researchers and business experts, we look at the prospects for healthcare, the global economy and the environment as we confront the worst public health crisis in more than a century.
- The pandemic has underscored the need for better coordination in our healthcare systems with a stronger focus on prevention rather than treatment. More investment is needed in primary healthcare as well as in establishing local community health networks to detect health issues early. In some developing countries, community health networks can be key in increasing government response to those living in informal settlements.
- Moreover, the pandemic is highlighting the necessity to better integrate social care and healthcare – a disproportionately high number of COVID deaths occurred in care homes. It is also putting the spotlight on issues related to multi-morbidity and how best to manage them – the virus is more likely to affect people suffering from multiple conditions and render them much more vulnerable to severe illness. A “stratified” approach with a better understanding of risk variances would allow us to better protect vulnerable groups while keeping the economy relatively open.
- Increased stress, social isolation and concerns over job security have negatively impacted mental health – already a pressing and rising issue on the health agenda. This strengthens the case for increased awareness and treatment of mental health issues and opens opportunities for digital tools and data for diagnosis and treatment. The role of digital tools and data is also key to managing the virus and its transmission; however, the crisis has brought into question the issues surrounding the ability to access tracking data as current data privacy frameworks do not seem fit for purpose.
- The role of digital goes beyond the direct management of the crisis and digitization is happening at unprecedented speed both in the workplace and in health insurance. In the insurance industry, this digital “crash course” is occurring simultaneously with an amplified demand for focus on advice, support and prevention, beyond traditional insurance. This holistic approach is being developed through digital forms of delivery, including telemedicine. The trend is also true in emerging markets, where the crisis is also raising stronger interest in formal insurance.
- While pandemic models have been developed and integrated into insurance risk modeling, the unprecedented lockdowns and their economic effects were impossible to anticipate. The short and mid-term economic outlook is bleak with a strong negative impact on jobs and growth, even though, for the time being, stock markets seem to be resisting the crisis overall. It is expected that any short-term rebound in the economy may prove to be only a “sugar high”. The real economy will take longer to recover, particularly those sectors worst hit by the lockdown, such as tourism, transport and hospitality. The insurance industry is unlikely to experience a repeat of the banking sector crash of 2008 and is not foreseen to go through a dramatic business shift.
- In this landscape of global and generalized crises, government intervention has been strong in supporting the economy. It will have a role to play in the question of growing inequalities as the pandemic has worsened existing disparities, leaving low-skill, low-paid workers worse-off. This is particularly true in cities where the crisis is calling for a need to rethink urban planning. On a world scale, the complexity of the pandemic and its effects are straining the international system and the “Bretton Woods” institutions – international cooperation and resistance against national self-interest will determine the relative success of this crisis’ management.
- State intervention is looking at coupling economic recovery with environmental concerns in some regions. Indeed, in Europe, the climate emergency has been re-enforced rather than side-lined, and green investments are increasingly being seen as a way of kick-starting the economy. Such “green investment” plans signal that pursuing an economic growth strategy and curbing climate change are not, as de-growth proponents would claim, mutually exclusive.
- Environmental issues are also being brought to the forefront of societal concerns through the issues related to biodiversity. The spread of pathogens like the COVID-19 virus points to the interrelations between natural ecosystems and human health. By harming and reducing the available space for wildlife, invasive species along with deforestation, pollution and intensive farming practices result in more frequent contact with animals carrying pathogens - thus posing specific risks to human health. A “One Health” approach is needed to align human health with the health of animals and natural eco-systems.