Although the entire world desperately hopes the COVID-19 pandemic will go away, wishful thinking is not a business model. The virus already has multiple strains, and scientists will need to design, test, approve, produce, and coordinate a wide distribution of vaccines for the multiple strains of this virus. Given the complexity of this undertaking, the most sober estimates suggest that we will be living under the shadow of this pandemic for years.
Waiting, therefore, isn’t a viable strategy – but neither is a sustained lockdown. Staying at home may bring immediate safety, but at a certain point, economic suffering begins to cause as much damage as the virus. From sustained physical inactivity to increased financial stress, a rise in mental illness, and the deferred treatment of other health issues, the ‘safe’ option leaves us all hardly any better off. Moreover, the widespread anti-lockdown protests overseas show that this strategy can’t work indefinitely.
The alternative is to assume the virus will stay with us, and adapt accordingly. Remote work, teleconferencing, delivery apps, and other tech-based initiatives can keep the economy working while keeping social contact to a minimum. Companies need to fully accept that the status quo will remain for the foreseeable future, and radically update their business models for this new world.
Likewise, government investment and stimulus measures should be based on a similar understanding. Smart public policy can encourage economic development towards the most promising solutions, so that people as well as businesses can reach safer ground.