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April 06, 2021 Tuesday 02:19:38 PM IST

Covid-19 Lessons: Governments Unable to to Deal with Systemic Shocks

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the inability to governments to deal with systemic shocks, accordingh to Karl Blanchet, Professor at University of Geneva (UNIGE) Faculty of Medicine. UNIGE led an international team of researchers to develop an interdisciplinary approach to shed light on the management of the pandemic crisis. 

The research highlights that many factors influenced the impact of the pandemic on society, such as the speed a government moves at, whether there is a social safety net, and the fragility of population health. “In the end, it shows how great inequalities are and that they are reinforced during the crisis”, says Professor Nikola Biller-Andorno, Director of the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine of the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

The authors of the policy brief derived 70 recommendations to build societal resilience. In addition, five governance principles can guide societies during ystemic crises. First, the involvement of all actors in society will promote inclusion, ownership, and responsibility. Second, improving our understanding of the COVID-19 as a systemic crisis will help communicate transparently about societal trade-offs. As Dr Wernli explains: “if schools are closed, it has an impact on the parents, and – by extension – on the world of work, not to mention school dropout and the resulting psychological distress”. Third, strengthening cross-sectoral collaboration will promote coherence in decision-making. Fourth, improving learning mechanisms will enable the rapid adoption and adaptation of measures grounded in scientific evidence. 

The international research team calls for scientists to work together to factor in the short, medium, and long-term effects, and bridge sectoral systems to support political decision-making. Finally, the last principle notes the risk of falling into an authoritarian system. “In a crisis like the present one, the executive over rides the legislative and legal systems. Although this might be justified in the short term, the situation should not last if democracies want to function”, states Nicolas Levrat, Professor of law and director of UNIGE’s Global Studies Institute.

The authors of the policy brief conclude that an integrated approach to resilience is required to strengthen our capacities to prevent, react to, and recover from systemic crises. Dr Wernli has the final word: “This crisis is an opportunity to reflect on the world of tomorrow. It underlines the importance of multilateral efforts and International Geneva for shaping resilient, inclusive, and sustainable societies.”