Dr Owain Williams By: Dr Owain Williams
Lecturer in IR and Human Security
View profile and Diary

04 Apr 2020 : Cruise Ships and Science

In China there are reports of new outbreaks in regions. Hubei is not presently affected. There are also reports of wet markets having reopened, which if true is just atrocious in terms of a failure of governance. Eating exotic meats is not defensible by some now trite ‘you are being too colonial’ quip from now on. There are reports I am reading that there are some 50 different vaccine candidate presently under some stage of development. One scientist in the US perhaps calls it true, almost all other life sciences work has ground to a halt. There is an extraordinary collective (I hope) scientific effort presently being directed to just a small number of objectives. It is amazing to think of but here in Brisbane both UQ and Griffith are blazing away in the labs. In the longer-term we need a global and social conversation about the direction and purpose of science, how it is funded, shared and consumed. What about basic research and platform technologies, how do wean ourselves of the market which so routinely and now spectacularly fails in terms of dugs and vaccines. Where markets are missing and there is no profit to be made R&D has not followed. How should we value science and health and healthcare, how can we be more long-term in funding and planning.

Here in Australia the cruise ship stand-off continues. People on board are sick and dying. There are some 16,000 crew as well, who are effectively in limbo and stateless. Even if the ships return to ports of origin (which they will not), how will poorly paid Philippine workers return home, even if there are flights. The treatment by Australia is inhumane. Human Rights, the IHRs and the law of the sea all seem long gone here with people being effective left to rot on ships of the coast.

I hear a great programme on the history of panic buying of toilet paper. This has pre-pandemic form. Apparently in one skit on the Carson show told a national audience that Hawaii was out of toilet paper. The results followed: mass national panic buying of toilet paper and months of real shortage in Hawaii. This continued for years, with periodic real and imagined crises causing mass paper panics. It seems that Hawaii and many other places are back there presently. Further reports of piracy of masks on route to countries instigated by US purchasing by cashed up  agents. This is far from funny.

Mumbai – COVID has reached the slums of that city. I’m afraid that this is going to be carnage in India, particularly in the slums. The Indian health system is not up to this, they have not spent enough on health system in keeping with growth. Hospitals are often filthy, with paper records. Medical facilities lack basic hygiene and in some cases water and electricity in the poorest areas. This will not be a good story. Modi seems pretty AWOL and I am sure will try and shift blame to the state level.

Poor Italy. Everything is shot it seems. Tourism and most other sectors have just ground to a halt or folded. But the pasta makers are very happy with demand and sky rocketing production.

© 2020, All rights reserved. Views expressed are those of individual contributors. Privacy Policy