COVID-19 has made it clear that public health is essential to economic recovery. The notion that we must choose between them is ridiculous – and has had deadly consequences.
This timeline traces an unfolding pandemic and the consequences of economic and/or political decisions. These include:
- Opening up for business too soon, and without sufficient precautions, which allows the coronavirus to continue spreading;
- Allowing pharmaceutical corporations to impose patent monopolies – and other intellectual property (IP) barriers – that limit access to life-saving coronavirus diagnostics, medicines and vaccines;
- Facilitating vaccine nationalism, by letting high-income countries purchase over half of anticipated vaccine stock;
- Relying on one or two countries to supply raw materials for medicines, personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies and devices, instead of sourcing them from multiple local producers;
- Cutting budgets for healthcare and privatizing the systems that deliver it;
Manipulating regulatory agencies;
- Rebranding chronically underpaid people as ‘essential workers’ while treating them as sacrificial lambs;
- The inability to communicate clearly and honestly with the public about the pandemic and ways to mitigate it.
We can learn from our bad choices – and despite them, we now know how to prevent SARS-CoV-2 and more about how to treat COVID-19. There is hope for a vaccine, and for treatments. We have a chance to build on this progress rather than reverting to a way of life that enabled a pandemic. Ideally, this timeline will provide background for transformative activism.