With COVID-19 in full swing, one of the big questions are when will this end and what will the impacts be. If things go well, I believe by late May we can begin a gradual re-opening, but note gradual. Until we have a vaccine I doubt things will fully return to normal and even then some changes will be permanent. My suggestions would be once curve is flattened is to allow offices to re-open under condition they have a hand sanitizer at entrance and every person must use it when entering and leaving and it will not be a recommendation, it will be the law and anyone not using it will face fines. All seats must be at least 2m apart. For restaurants and bars, they can re-open, but seating only, no standing or bar seats and tables a maximum of 4 people and at least 2m apart. All patrons must also use hand sanitizer when entering and leaving. All staff must wear masks and gloves and must use hand sanitizer when gloves removed. This will help businesses begin the slow road of recovery while keeping people safe. If we can ramp up testing, perhaps even say anyone who gets tested and tesst negative can return to normal, but those not tested or tested positive must remain on lockdown. Other possibility is only those under 70 can leave home and those under that cannot come in contact with those over unless they self isolate for 14 days. I think with re-opening we can learn from others what works and what doesn’t. For travel, I would suggest that since some provinces will be able to open earlier than others, those that open earlier would block off all roads crossing provincial boundaries except major ones and those would have police checkpoints only allowing through essential travel. Once all of country has beaten back outbreak those will be removed. Likewise if US does this, then we could partially re-open travel from US to states that have beaten it. For out of country travel, we should keep it closed for now but gradually re-open but only for low risk countries and also have mandatory testing on anyone entering Canada as well as returning Canadians. Instead to help tourism industry, should encourage more Canadians to travel to other parts of Canada to help them through this difficult time.
In terms of economic impacts, I think we will see some fundamental changes. Working remotely will become more common and I believe this has many upsides. It will save on gas costs due to less commuting and also childcare costs. Likewise more people can live in smaller communities and it will be less essential for businesses to have everyone living in one city. For urban cores, less office space means former office space can be made into multi-unit homes for those who wish or need to live there and with greater supply it will help bring down housing prices. Most large businesses will survive but many smaller ones will go under. For example in restaurant industry, I suspect a large chunk will disappear, but over time new ones open but probably take at least 5 years to get back to where we are now. In some countries some industries may have to be nationalized, particularly I could see many airlines being re-nationalized but do think once on steady footing should be privatized again and not be under permanent government ownership, otherwise sort of like what happened with GM. I also wouldn’t surprised if UBI is tried in a few countries on a permanent basis.
As for politics, very tough to say, but I believe the current trends will accelerate. I believe trend towards right wing populism in much of the West, but not Canada will grow as people become more isolationist and want to reduce influence of outside world. As such people like Salvini, Le Pen, Wilders, and Orban, you will see more of those winning in Europe although tough to say which ones. EU may even imploded over this. Asia is probably one region where politics won’t change a lot as the impact was less there so if anything it will probably re-enforce they have got it right and West got it wrong. Some think this will be death of neo-liberalism and move more towards social democracy. They said this after Great Recession yet opposite happened. I believe in Canada, you will see a strong swing to social democracy, but I believe it will be unique to us not a global phenomenon and in fact I am quite confident that by 2030 Canada will have replaced Nordic Countries as hub of social democracy. Not certain, but about 80% sure. I believe large deficits will become new norm and when crisis hits, public won’t tolerate austerity so we will default or turn to printing money to pay it off. I believe that for top marginal tax rates, Canada will take number #1 spot within next decade, probably next five years. Yes it will drive away a lot of business and talent, but Canadians more so than other cultures place a great emphasis on egalitarianism and desire for that will mean most Canadians will be okay if a lot of rich leave. If a Corbyn/Sanders type leader wins anywhere, I believe it will be Canada. By contrast elsewhere I don’t see any movement towards social democracy, if anything will likely decline further so in West there will be two worlds, a social democratic Canada vs. everyone else. Doesn’t mean social democratic parties won’t ever win elsewhere and likewise doesn’t mean conservatives will never win here, but overall trend will be to left in Canada, to right elsewhere. In fact with Canada having a liberal immigration policy, its quite possible our future growth will be with social democratic types from around the world immigrating here is we will be the only country on earth that has a government in power and population that shares their values.
2 thoughts on “COVID-19 and impacts”
It seems now that we are seeing cases coalesce in certain regions. I agree that the US border needs to remain closed for now, and I’d also restrict inter-provincial (and inter-regional) travel that hasn’t been restricted.
If there is a border that should be closed, it is the Ontario-Quebec border, particularly at 401/20 and 417/40. That border lies just 60 km from Montreal-Nord, where the cases are at levels comparable to what was seen in New York City a few weeks ago. (It seems the east and north sides of Montreal are being hit harder than the west island). That is why I’d be concerned about eastern Ontario, especially Ottawa, being only 190 km away. I think the lack of any travel is a big reason why Atlantic Canada has been largely spared, as has Manitoba and Saskatchewan, except for some localized instances. Isolation also seems to help – in the US, Alaska and Hawaii have the fewest cases, while in the 48 states, Montana has the fewest (even per capita). The PEI-New Brunswick border could probably reopen now for their residents (only) to go back and forth as neither province has any active cases.
As far as the US border, would reopening in phases be reasonable? For example, in Phase 1, it would only open from, say, Lake Superior to east of the Rocky Mountains (being far less affected on both sides) and along the Maine-New Brunswick border (even Maine has had far fewer cases than anywhere else in the Northeast), with residency and destination requirements focused on regional travel (they must disclose their destination and/or return time). That would keep it closed in the more densely populated and harder hit regions. For residents outside those regions, the border would remain closed, while regional residents would have access to the adjacent jurisdictions only.
I think US border should only open once cases dramatically drop or a vaccine developed so a long ways away from that. For foreign countries, I think we should in summer to help tourist industry in consultation with provinces consider opening to countries that have extremely low rates but right now that list would probably be pretty small. I think many East Asian Countries, Australia and New Zealand we can probably open for by Fall. For Europe problem is they have open borders so until all European get it under control we cannot open even though I think for countries like Finland, Denmark, Austria, Greece, Switzerland, and much of Southeastern Europe we could open soon, but risk people from countries that are higher may travel there.
I’ve heard they have antibody testing so maybe if that is ramped up we could allow those who test positive for antibodies to travel, but even there would want to defer to medical experts.