Lockdowns have been the main measures to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 infections. But lockdowns typically incur huge economic costs, distributed unevenly in economies and societies. In fact, some governments
acknowledged that they were choosing ‘life over economy’.
‘Life vs. Economy’: A false dichotomy
As lockdowns have been repeatedly extended arguing that economy can be revived but not the dead
, it has become increasingly clear that ‘lives and livelihoods’ are intrinsically intertwined. The longer the lockdowns, higher is the risk of hunger and hence death.
Landless farmers who produce rice for the landlords of big “haciendas” can’t get more than a little pocket money from their harsh work—not enough to provide diverse and healthy food for their families. Seasonal workers on sugar-cane plantations know that they can count on only six months of earnings. When summer arrives, those whose irrigation facilities have been destroyed by typhoons, or those who never had any, struggle while waiting for the rain.
The world economic contraction so far this year is largely due to measures, especially at the national or local level, to contain or prevent Covid-19 contagion, particularly those restricting business operations, thus reducing economic activity, output, incomes and spending.
The COVID-19 pandemic is crippling the economies of rich and poor countries alike. Yet for many low-income and fragile states, the economic shock will be magnified by the loss of remittances—money sent home by migrant and guest workers employed in foreign countries.
By now, the impact of COVID19 on our daily lives has been well documented, especially in advanced economies. Anxiety about the future continues to grow everywhere. Much of the corporate news coverage we consume has focused on the toll this pandemic will take on mainland countries. Often neglected, however, is the unique position Pacific Island States find themselves in.
As of 11 AM (AEST) on 20th May 2020 the incidence of COVID-19 virus (henceforth virus) on the Pacific Islands was limited. Active cases (deaths) in some of the Pacific Islands were Australia 7,072 (100), New Zealand 1,503 (21), PNG 8(0), Guam 154 (5), Fiji 18 (0), Timor-Leste 24 (0), French Polynesia 60(0), and New Caledonia 18(0).1
Standards of comparison are not uniform across the region since testing capacities of the various countries differ widely. The low number of cases in the smaller Pacific Islands compared to their larger neighbours, i.e., Australia and New Zealand, reflect both variations in testing standards as well as their smaller population size. The smaller Pacific Islands were also not subject to some of the aberrations experienced by the larger countries, e.g., large number of arrivals from foreign countries in planes and cruise ships.
What is happening now
In the early months of 2020, much of the globe was put on pause as governments fought to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. For many, work came to a grinding halt as factories and shops were forced to close their doors, transforming a global health catastrophe into a labour market and economic crisis.
Remittances that support millions of households in Latin America and the Caribbean have plunged as family members lose jobs and income in their host countries, with entire families sliding back into poverty, as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis and global economic recession.
Aged 17, Moe Turaga was saddled with the responsibility of providing for his mother and young siblings when a family member approached him with the promise of a job and education in Australia. Dreaming of a bright future for himself and his family, he seized the opportunity and left the protective confines of his home in Fiji, only to find himself trapped in modern slavery on a remote agriculture farm in the state of Victoria.
Covid-19 is the most significant event since the Second World War. It changes everything.
It brings great sadness to many of us as we lose loved ones, as we see people losing their jobs, and as we see people around the world suffering immensely.
As the COVID-19 mayhem carries on in most countries, the role of mothers, daughters, and female caregivers have been affected the most. Besides looking after the household and home schooling children, they are also working on the front lines, actively or passively caring for their respective communities.
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have a historic opportunity to help stabilize a world reeling from COVID-19. Doing so will require the institutions to change course and aggressively support poor countries’ ability to invest broadly in the government services their populations need.
After her mother passed away, her father remarried and moved elsewhere, and so attending school became a luxury for 12-year-old Sheuly Munda.
A daily commute of two-and-a-half hours each way would take a toll on anyone, but for Özkan, a construction worker in Istanbul, the hardest part of his long journey is coping with his fears about what might happen after he gets home.
An invisible adversary has thrown the world – Global South and Global North alike – into disarray. The psychosocial and economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis will remain with us long after it has been overcome. There will be no anti-viral return to the pre-coronavirus status quo, nor can we afford to idly wait for a viral transformation of our world. The future is not inevitable, abstract promise – it will depend on our collective readiness to forge it, or to be forged by it.
The defining images of South Asia’s battle against Covid-19 are hundreds of thousands of migrants, many with children on their shoulders, trudging from New Delhi, Kathmandu or Dhaka to their far-flung villages. They are daily wage earners engaged in construction, small enterprises, plying rickshaws or street selling in the informal sector. With lockdowns and economic activity shut down to combat the virus, these migrants lost their low-paying jobs and were forced to flee to their rural homes. Those who remained in these cities face food insecurity, rising joblessness and risk falling deeper into poverty.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has created an unprecedented human and economic crisis. Governments are taking strong actions, enforcing quarantines to reduce contagion, testing populations, building emergency intensive care units. Governments have also launched large fiscal stimulus plans to protect jobs and the economy, as well as temporary social protection programs such as income/food support, subsidies to utilities and care services.
As the high season for agricultural labour in the United States approaches, tens of thousands of migrant workers from Mexico are getting ready to head to the fields in their northern neighbour to carry out the work that ensures that food makes it to people's tables.
The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said that now is “a defining moment for modern society. History will judge the efficacy of the response not by the actions of any single set of government actors taken in isolation, but by the degree to which the response is coordinated globally across all sectors for the benefit of our human family.”
COVID-19 has disrupted supply chains that are essential to assure food security in the Asia Pacific region, yet countries overall seem to have managed, so far, to keep supermarkets stocked with food and feed those who can afford it.
The Asia Pacific region is home to over 60% of humanity and also contains sub-regions with among the highest frequencies of severe weather events and some of the most challenging environments for agriculture. As a region it is characterized by diverse food systems and a multiplex of supply chains. Under normal circumstances, food security is already threatened by a multitude of factors.
For a Bangladeshi woman, who has worked as a sex worker since childhood, her future post-COVID-19 looks hopeless.
Shilpy, who works at Daulatdia, the largest brothel in the country, told IPS how she now also fears for the future of her two daughters.