On July 28, at 16:00 Moscow time (GMT + 3), the Valdai Discussion Club held an online discussion titled “Global Response to the Pandemic: The Strategy of the World Community and Social Challenges.” The event was timed to coincide with the release of a Valdai Paper by Alan Freeman, Co-Director of the Geopolitical Economy Research Group at the University of Manitoba (Canada), “How Many People Need Die? A Real Alternative to Herd Immunity”. The discussion focused on the social and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as on possible response models.
At the beginning of the discussion, Alan Freeman summarised the main findings of his work, explaining the difference between the herd immunity strategy and the zero-transmission strategy, as well as between social and monetised health care systems. A zero-transmission strategy does not necessarily mean a crackdown on civil liberties, he stressed.
Neuroscientist Karl Friston considered the problem of the relationship between lockdowns and herd immunity as factors preventing the spread of the virus, and pointed to the importance of a state-funded, socially-oriented healthcare system. He also proposed the concept of “dark matter” – the hidden factors that cause differences in the patterns of the development of the epidemic.
Jordi Raich Curcó, Head of the Regional Delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Mexico, spoke about his experience countering the pandemic in Central America. He noted that as a result of the early introduction of quarantines, Mexico, which wasn’t capable of withstanding a long economic shutdown, has had to “open up” at the peak of the epidemic – and how this leads to adverse consequences. He also gave a very pessimistic forecast for the next year.
Radhika Desai, Director of the Geopolitical Economy Research Group at the University of Manitoba, offered a geo-economic perspective on the coronavirus, noting that the pandemic made the confrontation between the West and the emerging economies more intense. She also discussed the difference between European and Chinese approaches to combating the pandemic.