The current pandemic is no surprise; it has long been known to be possible. And many books have long predicted that such a catastrophe is imminent.
In particular, it was known that China was not taking the necessary precautions after the last episode of this kind, SARS, which in 2003 claimed less than a thousand victims and cost less than 0.5 per thousand of the global GDP. We knew that any future crisis would be infinitely more serious: because China is infinitely more important in the world economy than it was fifteen years ago; because the global nomadism of things and people is infinitely more developed; because the culture of secrecy that surrounds such events in dictatorships has developed with the new technologies; and finally because international institutions, including the WHO, are increasingly subservient to the most powerful governments in the world.
Many therefore knew that a new pandemic would have more serious consequences than the previous one. And yet here we are. The current pandemic is already more severe than the previous one and no one can yet predict how far it will go.
If it really explodes, it would be a gigantic cataclysm all over the world. It is possible, but unlikely. And, to limit the consequences, measures would have to be taken when the time comes, the human, social, economic, ecological and political consequences of which could be terrifying.
In the hypothesis, the most likely one even today, that the current pandemic will quickly be stopped, the consequences will still be much more serious than last time. First on the economic front, through the slowdown of the Chinese economy and the closing of the world to products and visitors from Asia. And even more so in the political arena: the Chinese regime can lose its credibility there, just as the Soviet regime lost its credibility with the Chernobyl disaster, demonstrating, once again, that, contrary to the current consensus, a dictatorship cannot become the world’s superpower in the long term.
Once this crisis has been averted, whatever the consequences, it is likely that we will move on, without learning the lessons. Without implementing, on a global scale, the major actions needed to protect ourselves from the next, necessarily even more important ones. At least the following four actions:
1. Organize much better, in China and elsewhere, the hygiene of wholesale markets and the food chain, on the model of the best markets in the world, including Rungis in France.
2. Plan much better, and publicize the beginnings of a new pandemic much earlier, even if the local government refuses to do so. It is possible: the current pandemic could have been announced much earlier, even though China refused to provide the necessary information, as a Canadian company, Blue Dot, has just demonstrated, which, with public information, had announced the coronavirus epidemic ten days before the Chinese government decided to announce it. This kind of observatory, based on the massive and open use of artificial intelligence technologies, must be set up worldwide as of now.
3. Develop networks of research laboratories, with much greater resources and cooperation between teams, to prepare to move much faster in the search for antidotes.
4. Set up major public health programmes, which will also make it possible to reduce the ecological impact of economic activity.
Nothing is more urgent than to think and act globally. Nothing is more difficult, however, when three-quarters of humanity lacks the essentials and when everyone is caught up in emergencies, present and future, whether minor or dramatic.
We can at least hope that such a pandemic, fraught with threats, will be the trigger.