Dr Owain Williams By: Dr Owain Williams
Lecturer in IR and Human Security
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24 Mar 2020 : It Unravels

The pictures of abandoned care home elderly patients in Spain are just so haunting. It seems with people dying that staffs simply left, probably to prevent their own infection. They are probably poorly paid like many in the health and caring professions, but still it is shocking to see ambulances taking way the dead. Those left alive must be so traumatised. This balanced with pictures of Gareth and Hilary canoeing and paddle boarding off the coast in British Columbia and a beautiful blue day. They have left Vancouver for the duration: all work has dried up for Gareth in film and Hilary is online.

I have agreed to do a 1000 blog with Simon on the political economy of COVID-19, speculating on the future of capitalism. I agree with him that it will survive, but it must be (?) in radically different form. A lot of crystal ball rubbish maybe, but so many things are already changing. Just from the standpoint of all these supply chains, so stretched by globalisation and just in time. Especially those that impact on vital sectors like food and pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. Also how we value people that do some basic things that we all rely on: doctors, nurses, porters in hospitals; farmers and shelf-stackers; lorry drivers and the list goes on. The political economy of this crisis is also one in which we have to think of a new planetary economics with climate change and resilience (that much bloated term) genuinely considered. What really matters here. We have created and endemically short-term polity and economy: election cycles, company reporting cycles trumping real investment in people and a liveable planet. And it seems the nation state might make a comeback for all the good reason: welfare, planning the economy, public goods and services.

In the USA more than 1000 hotel beds are to made available for patients in Chicago. First case of it in Easter Island for god sake. Indonesia is now at 686 cases, but that is probably the tip of a fat iceberg of under-reported cases. Likewise, much of South East Asia seems to be under-reporting. Gurdev in KL is quick to point out it is actually awful: huge gatherings and religious events. PPE is in short supply almost everywhere, and there is talk on Twitter of China effectively hoarding supplies. If this is true, it is abhorrent after they received a lot of assistance. In the UK we are replete with stories of front line staff working without PPE, in other countries report of staff wearing only garbage bags for protection or inappropriate masks. Tokyo Olympics now postponed after ridiculous palaver and brinksmanship.  India seems to be set to go for something, much noises on Twitter and news channels. It has 1.3 billion people and invests around 1% of GDP in health. Basically, it is a country that sends a mission to Mars and has chronically under-invested in health. But the same can be said of many countries and we know that the Abuja Declaration for Africa is a sad joke – 15% of GDP on health. Most countries are lucky to see 3%.

Chat to James my PhD on Whatsapp. He is a medic and thinks morally he has to go back from studies to the frontline. I hope he is safe in some fever ward in Brisbane.

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