As the debate continues on the origins of the coronavirus, as to if it is created in a Chinese laboratory or if it originated in other wild animals in China or if it is a natural evolution of the virus, it certainly exposed the global fault lines and vulnerabilities to the world.
Based on statistics, some intellectuals are quick to point out that disasters of this magnitude occur once in a century, thereby implying that we may not face another devastation like the current one during our lifetime. This may be true if the only force that we have to contend with is mother nature. But unfortunately for us, there are many actors in the play, and we are better off guarding against being lulled into a false sense of security.
The pandemic provided a systematic working model on the spread of biological agents, the government responses, the impact on economies, and the limitations of response systems. Also, the ease with which governments across the world succumbed before an invisible enemy provides added impetus to terrorist organizations to try their hand at biological warfare. Accordingly, it’s a question as to when and not if some rogue elements will exploit the situation and cause more such pandemics.
Although the threat of biological warfare is not new, and many nations have been preparing for one, for a long time, the current situation not only exposed the gaps in our preparedness but also made it clear that we are not in any position to withstand a repeat performance, leave alone a series of attacks.
Now the question that begs an answer is what actions we should take to prevent and prepare for such threats? Below are the top five measures that each of us and the governments that represent us should be taking now.
Measures by Individuals – Each of us should:
- realize that we are the foot soldiers in any biological war, and be battle-ready by ensuring our own physical and psychological well-being.
- prepare to support ourselves for short intervals of time where governments may be completely / partially paralyzed.
- have a well thought out personal emergency response plan for each of the major situations that we may come across.
- hold governments and businesses accountable for taking measures to prepare and protect us from these threats.
- play an active role in guiding/helping the governments in preparing the strategies and actions necessary to protect us from threats.
Measures by Governments – Each government should:
- develop global trade responsibly and build structures to support information on any emerging threats and response systems to deal with them.
- encourage the scientific community to explore ways to trigger faster production of antibodies by human immune systems to fend off viruses.
- rapidly increase medical staff, equipment, and facilities.
- foster an environment for rapid innovation, and drastically reduce the time it takes to create new anti-viral/anti-bacterial drugs.
- build economic structures that could withstand and secure supply chains in the wake of massive disruptions. These measures can range from being self-sufficient in identified products/services to building disaster recovery centers where production can be ramped-up at short notice.
Although the impending threats may seem daunting, we should take strength and inspiration from the fact that we have the resilience to overcome these challenges as is evidenced by our history of emerging victorious from past pandemics and other disasters. We will surely overcome these threats, with the help of the resilience, planning, preparations, and survival instincts that we are endowed in plenty.