Government and Business in Crisis

“We started by saying that lives are important and we have to save lives. Today we are at equilibrium and we’re saying lives are important, but livelihoods are also important.”

On the economic implications:

“This time I don’t think we’re going to go back to the normal conduct that we see after a typical recession. This time the world has been scarred by the prospect of death and a virus that we don’t really know much about,” Rubenstein said.

Commenting on the severity of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, he argued: “There’s a word somewhere in between recession and depression that hasn’t been invented yet – but that’s the word that’s appropriate.”

Rubenstein also noted that businesses are now in process of cutting back on costs and are going to “cut back on the number of employees they really feel they need.” He added: “All the employees that have been laid off are not coming back.”

On geopolitics:

“Geopolitically, I believe it’s going to be a big complication because there are a lot of implications if the economic situation is going to be affected. It means that there will be social unrest in some countries, especially those countries without fiscal capabilities,” said Al Thani.

The Deputy Prime Minister suggested the Middle East would be especially susceptible to social unrest – amid high unemployment and a lack of economic opportunity – and could lead to turmoil along the lines of the Arab Spring of 2011. He called for a “rethinking about a new collaborative order” in the region.

On the search for a vaccine:

“The good news is the biology of SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] is not very complicated. Many of us have worked on SARS and MERS in the past…through all that has been done before, we believe we should have several vaccines,” Bancel said.

Commenting on the potential of employing a vaccine before it is officially approved, Bancel noted: “What is possible – and it’s going to be a country-by-country decision – is to potentially use the vaccine in an emergency-use situation, which in some countries is already written into law, and in some countries it is not.”

On the challenges for developing countries:

“How do we balance what the epidemic is going to look like as it starts to gain momentum in Africa in particular, but how do we also make sure we don’t cause a secondary humanitarian crisis with malnutrition and economic collapse?” McClelland asked, addressing the potentially magnified and devastating impact COVID-19 could inflict on poorer economies with weak healthcare systems in Africa.