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Dreaming of a better future, not a return to the past

April 30, 2020 News

IN SOME COUNTRIES, through combinations of intensive testing programs  and strict community quarantine rules, first steps are being taken in  reopening their economies and loosening of strict lockdown rules. What  is becoming clear from these countries is that life on the other side of  COVID-19 will not initially resemble life before the virus arrived.

While these countries now have the possibility to restart some  aspects of their economies, a return to “normal,” if normal is defined  as pre-COVID-19 life, will be some years away. Even when managed, some  amount of virus will still be present and large gatherings and  international travel will continue to be impacted until a vaccine has  been developed and widely distributed on a worldwide basis.

So, governments will need to plan. They will need to consider how  quarantines can be partially and then more fully lifted. They will need  to make a decision on what type of social distancing will remain in  place for the near future. These decisions will be informed by expert  opinion, data as well as individual national circumstances.

What we can do as a society with the time provided by the community  quarantine measures is to give thought to what we want our future new  normal to be. Rather than dwell on regression to a past, we can dream  about a new future, different from the world before coronavirus.

Our future new normal can be better, we can emerge from this crisis  stronger, better prepared and agile in anticipating future risks and  managing them with less disruption. While history does not repeat  itself, it sometimes rhymes, and lessons must be learned from our  current situation to ensure that our future is more resilient.

Global pandemics are not new. We have developed ways of managing and  preventing these once-grave threats to human health, but not before  these diseases wrought a terrible toll in terms of death. COVID-19 is  the latest of these. It will not be the last. We can and should  anticipate that a future virus will mutate and pose the risk of another  global pandemic.

So, what should our principles be as we look to build our new normal?  How do we learn from the past, use the present as a teachable moment in  order to shape a better, more resilient, future?

Two key lessons from the current coronavirus outbreak must focus on  our healthcare systems, especially their capacity to serve the  population effectively as well as the health of our society.

How to translate these lessons into a set of principles to shape our  future new normal must start with a wide-ranging public dialogue  embracing multiple stakeholders in our society. There is much for us to  consider as we dream of a better tomorrow: Firstly, we should recognize healthcare as an investment, not a cost. If we have learned one thing from our current situation, it is that any  supposed trade-off between public health and economic gain is a false  narrative. And if a sickly society cannot translate into a successful  economy, we should look at investments in our health as investments in  our future, particularly in a country like the Philippines where people  are the nation’s greatest natural resource.

Secondly, we need to appreciate that disease cannot read postal codes. They do not much care what you do for a living or how large your bank  balance might be. In a pandemic where we all have the ability to  potentially infect one another or protect one another, it is in all our  interests that healthcare is seen as a universal right and not a  privilege for the few. Your neighbor’s good health is to your benefit as  well as his.

Thirdly, our self-responsibility for health, hygiene, and wellness is good for our community, and society as a whole. We all have a role to play in managing our health and looking to be healthier.

Returning to the world we had before COVID-19 is likely to be as big a  challenge as creating a new, better future. So why not dream big and  work together to create new values and priorities for a healthier and  more resilient future? Our dreams can be for a healthier Philippines, a  stronger Philippines, and a more prosperous Philippines.

By Dr. Amal Makhloufi

Dr. Amal Makhloufi is the Chairperson of the Committee of Health  of the European Chamber for Commerce and Industries (ECCP). She is also  the Country Manager of Sanofi Philippines and the General Manager for  Pharmaceuticals.

Source: Business World Online