Professor David Murdoch; Dean, Otago University, Christchurch, explains that there are 35 vaccine candidates. Some clinical trials are underway or will start soon. “It’s amazing when you think that four months ago we didn’t even know this virus existed,” David says. However, he notes that we are still 12-18 months from having a vaccine ready and available due to factors such as regulatory requirements, funding deficiencies, and quality control.
De Kai, AI professor and Google AI Ethics Council Member, tells us that misinformation and disinformation is spreading during this time of uncertainty. AI can exploit our cognitive biases, resulting in increased levels of polarization and racism. The solution, he says, is to build AI technologies to find these sources of disinformation. Interestingly enough, AI is the answer to the very problem is it helping amplify.
Mazda Adli, Chair of the Fliedner Klinik Berlin Centre for Psychiatry, discusses fears and stress caused by COVID-19. In his opinion, emotions can be as contagious as the virus itself. In order to deal with our current situation, he suggests that we look for new ways to reduce stress. Examples include: picking up new activities, pursuing virtual social interactions to reduce loneliness, and reducing our daily media consumption (while at the same time being more cautious about the credibility of our news sources).
Student, Sherry Wang, highlighted the power of celebrities and their fans to fundraise. She notes that money is not the only solution to COVID relief (it was useless to Wuhan hospitals), fans can also help by sourcing and providing supplies, and shipping it directly to hospitals. In describing the hospital reaction she states, "The joy was so real. Even better than sitting under Christmas trees on December 25th."
Aneil Gokhale, Director of Philanthropy at the Toronto Foundation, pointed out that "to have this conversation is a privilege" as many people cannot work from home or take measures to secure their livelihoods and families at this time. He notes that COVID-19 is accelerating harm to communities that are already at a disadvantage. Having some perspective during these trying times may change our overall outlook.
Anil Parashar, President and CEO at InterGlobe Technology Quotient, shared how the airline and other travel industries will change in response to the pandemic. In the longer term, the aviation business will undergo an essential shift. Passengers will need to feel reassured - what is important to them today is not the quality of food but the hygiene; not comfortable seats, but the social distancing. Airplanes and buses will have to be 50% less populated. De-globalization will bring new solutions in the world of aviation and hospitality.
Robert Mołdach, CEO of Institute of Health and Democracy, warns us not only about the limited resiliency of our healthcare system, but our economic systems. “The current crisis, which is predominantly discussed in terms of health outcomes should also be analyzed and discussed in terms of economics and social restrictions. We should talk not only about saving lives but also about saving livelihoods” explains Moldach.
Agnes Pannier Runacher, Secretary of State for the French Minister of the Economy and Finance, explains that France is planning for negative growth of -1% GDP for 2020. She tells us that this crisis is violent, with massive impact on thousands of companies - from tourism to restaurants. France doesn’t expect a rebound before September. Therefore, to limit the crisis impact, the state is spending 8.5 billion in partial unemployment and will give 300 billion Euros in guarantees to banks.
COO of cloud-wifi company BRCK, Nivi Sharma, reminds us that not everyone has the privilege of digital access. She discusses a solution raised by BRCK to overcome the digital divide by establishing a free public wifi network called Moja. Through this initiative, suggestions on stopping the spread of COVID-19 can be more easily disseminated to Kenyans with limited internet connectivity. “In order to really drive the behavioural stage, we need to go a step further. We need to explain why these measures are important to saving millions of lives. The traditional patriarchal approach will not work” states Sharma.
Jamil Chade, award-wining writer and journalist, covering diplomatic matters in Geneva since 2000, recalls that COVID-19 seems to be Disease X - a name adopted by World Health Organization to refer to the unknown agent that would cause a serious international epidemic. He noted that WHO estimates there are approximately 1.6 million unknown viruses. Investments in scientific research to map those viruses in 2018, were 1.2 billion USD, which is nothing compared to the current estimate of 2 trillion USD to cover losses arising from coronavirus. Investment in health is not only urgent; it is economically competent.
Larry Brilliant, M.D., Chairman of Ending Pandemics, notes that every year, two or three novel viruses jump species - from animal to humans, such as SARS, West Nile and Zika. The fact that we are living in an age of pandemics is no surprise. Larry explains that combatting COVID-19 is not a question of mitigation vs. containment/suppression. We need to do both in order to preserve our healthcare systems, flatten the curve, and slow the death rate. Yet, Larry is an optimist. Why? because he personally got to see the last case of smallpox come to an end.
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