Commentary: The Borderless Virus and The Global Economy

The healthcare and education sectors were forced to digitalise during the pandemic. Throughout history, these industries have been considered safe, stable and resistant to change. The pandemic-led digitalisation gave many startups the opportunity to harness the boundless potential of two industries that were largely closed off to transformational changes prior to the pandemic.

From telemedicine to online classes–we humans adapt when we are forced to. As certain economies around the world open up and transition back to ‘normal’, startups must now turn their attention to how their solution or product will be received after the downturn.

The sudden shift to remote work has its own challenges, for instance, the increased risk of cyber crime; which on the flip side leads to an increased demand for cloud services and solutions. The demand for cloud platforms, which are capable of transmitting big data, continues to grow. When it comes to security, customers are always on the lookout for better and more secure alternatives. Public cloud IAAS spending grew 38% in 2019 to a worldwide total of US$49billion.

As some economies recover steadily after the downturn and embark on the journey of revitalising their growth, other economies are forced to endure a second tryst with the deadly virus. India’s total COVID-19 caseload soared past 20 million on 4 May as the pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the country’s hospitals.

Despite the travel bans that have temporarily been put in place by various countries across the globe, the reality remains that India is the world’s fifth largest economy and a significant contributor to global economic growth. A crisis in India affects not only the South Asian nation, but sends a shockwave through the rest of the world.

The pharmaceutical industry in India is the third largest in the world in terms of volume and 11th largest in terms of value. It contributes 3.5 per cent of the total drugs and medicines exported globally and about 20 per cent of the global exports of generic drugs. When these exports are affected, there will be all sorts of consequences for healthcare around the world, which in turn will affect global growth.

Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, has been given the rights to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine for 64 low-income countries under the WHO’s Covax program; a global collaboration with the aim to accelerate the development, production and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.

The second pandemic crisis in India has already meant that the exports of the vaccine have been postponed or called off, leaving many countries vulnerable to fresh waves of the virus and could potentially delay their efforts to return to business as usual. On May 1, the SII began planning to start vaccine production in other countries as it struggles to meet supply commitments.

If India is unable to provide vaccine supplies to the rest of the world, we can expect spillover effects in the form of recurrent lockdowns, increased need for social-distancing measures and a significant decrease in economic activity.

This virus has no borders. We know that much. India’s crisis could potentially become a world crisis–not only for health but also for the global economy.

Kamala Harris getting her second COVID-19 vaccination.

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