Covid-19: the WHO and the different phases of the crisis

From the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the World Health Organisation has warned about its societal and economic consequences by describing three different phases that countries would go through. With phases one and two having passed, speculations about what the long-term phase three will look like have started to appear.


From the early phase of the Covid-19 virus, the WHO has stressed that countries would be transitioning between public health principles, economic and societal considerations in finding a response to the crisis. Moreover, managing Covid-19 response transitioning could not be carried out through a “one-size fits all” approach given that countries had highly different experiences.

A substantial part of a report published by the WHO in April is about the societal and economic consequences and the organisation describes three phases. Among the effects in the first phase were employment insecurity, food and fuel insecurity, and higher levels of stress and anxiety. The subsequent phase included housing insecurity, firm closures, adverse childhood experiences and rising suicides. Many countries are already full experiencing this second phase and some analysts have severely questioned the policy choices that have been made. Some calculations even go so far as to state that for 1000 years of life gained by the lockdowns, up to 600.000 year of life have been lost by the negative effects of the combined measures implemented during lockdowns.

Phase three of the scenario sketched by the WHO is particularly gloomy and includes the breakdown of societal cohesion, long-term ill health, increased inequality, slower recovery and widening economic and health gaps between geographical areas, increase in avoidable hospitalization and long-term unemployment.

If this is a realistic view of the future, it is all the more important to consider whether this scenario inevitably needs to play out, and who is to gain and lose from such a scenario.Clive Maund is among the commentators who have speculated about an agenda behind Covid-19, thereby reaching the same long-term conclusion as the WHO unless citizens start to resist the violation of their rights and liberties.

Maunds points at developments that are clearly benefitting some and hurting others. As small and medium sized companies are collapsing and in the process turn cities into ghost towns, the world’s billionaires and pharmaceutical class have increased their net worth up to 109%. Banks, in turn, have used Covid-19 as a scapegoat to blame a possible collapse of the fragile world economic system on, while at the same time using the virus as an excuse to implement a cashless society. States, finally, had been confronted in recent years with protests all around the world by citizens challenging neoliberal economics. The combination of preventing crowds from gathering and the compulsory mask wearing, enforced by violence if necessary, could be seen as an attempt by the State to demonstrate its power in a time when its weakness became increasingly obvious.

Maund does not pretend to have all the answers. What is clear, however, is that we are slowly moving towards the breakdown of societal cohesion as predicted by the WHO. The gap between those who question the official narrative, illustrated by massive protests in countries like Germany, and those who do not becomes wider and the end is not in sight.

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