The government didn’t act transparent enough in the early stages of the coronavirus epidemic, which gave the impression that it was hiding information to avoid panic. As a result, it took certain steps too late. But it took them nonetheless. Authorities took many preventive decisions during the March 12 meeting at the Presidency.
Among these were school holidays as well as restrictions on sports events and travel. It was late, but they did take these decisions. There are still practices left to criticize. But now is the time to act responsibly and comply with the precautions taken. We must apply the necessary measures to go through this testing period with the least loss of life and damage possible. The precautions proposed by the Turkish Medical Association (which I’m taking as my main source) are no different from the government’s. We will wash our hands with soap as often as we can, avoid crowded places as much as possible, and if we have a fever, we will go to the hospital. These are the most basic measures. Meanwhile, some Turks living in Europe are reportedly disregarding the 14-days rule, taking advantage of the cheaper flight prices to see their families, despite warnings. This is a serious matter that calls for investigation and precautions.
Many official travels and meetings are getting canceled. Political parties, companies, and universities are canceling meetings that bring together large groups of people. The U.S.’s cancellation of travels from the European Union shook not only world politics but he economy, too. The consequences of this shock will affect everyone, every country. Recently, Professor Utku Perktaş wrote for YetkinReport: the WHO has been warning the world against the “Disease-X”, an epidemic of respiratory diseases, for years. And scientists had been writing about how, just like EBOLA, SARS and the like, the Corona (COVID-19) virus would be a mere precursor to this “Disease-X”. We must lend an ear to science. The environmental disasters that we cause are threatening humanity’s near future with new and more dangerous, coronavirus-like diseases.
We will need new rules and relationship grounds in line with these new threats and conditions. Aside from the human dimension, we must focus on the political and economic aspects: we require scenarios of change.
A new public health order
I’m not speaking just for Turkey: we must move toward a healthcare system that covers every segment of society and preventive public health practices. The current inequality in the healthcare system that favors the care of wealthy must change. In this context, health insurance policies must shift from a purely profit-oriented system to working for the public interest.
Because when such epidemics begin, we all get affected: no border, wealth divide or power dynamic matters in that case. The Brazilian Minister of Communication, who met with U.S. President Donald Trump last week, has tested positive for the virus. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is listed as a potential carrier, while 23 deputies in the Iranian Assembly are ill and their Assembly is closed. We’re seeing that officials carrying thermal cameras have been added to Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan’s protection team — he has been traveling a lot lately, both eastward and westward.
So the scenarios of change must include the shift in health systems worldwide from their current profit-driven form to more preventive public health practices that benefit the whole of society.
New international relations order
Trump’s decision to suspend all travels from Europe for 30 days starting March 12 was perhaps the first of many such decisions to come. This statement came after German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that about 50-60 percent of her country was at risk of contracting coronavirus. Merkel waited until March 11 to take extraordinary measures; she’s now being accused of acting too late, when Italy was already in severe delay when it did on on March 5. French President Emmanuel Macron, on the other hand, acted even later despite the recorded deaths in France and announced the extraordinary measures on March 12, one day after Turkey. One of the reasons why the U.S. has somewhat quarantined Europe is that the Schengen Agreement, valid in most EU countries, has removed visa checks at borders for citizens of member countries. A space of freedom is almost turning into a curse itself.
Following Brexit, that is Britain’s withdrawal from the EU in January this year, speculations about changes in the order of international relations began. As the need to take new shapes took over certain Western values and systems, was globalization as we know it approaching its end? Was this the beginning of a new era of nation-states? Before the coronavirus outbreak, the US had begun its economic blockade attempts against China, the EU, and Russia — not to mention Iran. During the U.N. General Assembly in September 2019, Trump was saying: “The future doesn’t belong to globalists. The future belongs to patriots.”
The coronavirus has caused the world, the countries, institutions and even companies to go into a process of closing-off. Or rather, it began to speed up that process. It’s possible to say that diplomacy will be more focused on countries and regions in the new order of international relations. Collaborations will likely be more subject-oriented rather than general. We must be prepared.
A new period in international trade
Let’s start by stating the fact that it’s difficult for some sectors to recover in a short span of time, and that they’ll need to reorganize and renew themselves. Tourism is the first on that list. Giant cruise ships are quarantined all around the world at this very moment. True horror scenarios are taking place inside them and there is no proper news. Air travel is getting riskier by the day. The tourism sector is unlikely to go on without changing its ways. Most companies are asking their managers to make their compulsory inner-city travels by car, as much as possible. Teleconferences are the preferred method for international meetings at the moment. The EU summit set for March 26 will probably take place in this way. Civil aviation and transportation sectors are looking into serious short-term damage. The same is true to an extent for the entertainment sector.
Think about it: Tourism and trade revenues were the reasons
The blow that the Chinese economy suffered as a result of the coronavirus has affected the whole world. Due to a decrease in demand, oil and natural gas prices have dropped to unprecedented levels for many years. This situation is straining countries whose main income comes through oil and natural gas sales the hardest — Russia first and foremost. Cancellation of orders from Eastern China and the EU may trigger a certain revival in production bases close to the EU, such as Turkey. However, as underlined by Selva Demiralp, a period of less consumption, of living within one’s means, and of closing off is ahead of us.
The coronavirus has accelerated a wave of global transformation that was already coming. It’s now taken more seriously because human life is at stake. Change became obligatory: we must prepare.