I will admit, I am usually an extremely pessimistic person and therefore extremely cautious, but this trait is also being adopted among world leaders in respect to how they handle the Covid-19 pandemic in their own countries. This is clearly seen in how New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has adopted strict lockdowns at any sight of new cases while having a strict border policy, which has led to New Zealand becoming the best handler of the pandemic among developed nations. Adopting a Zero-Covid policy will not be popular among the public after nearly a year and a half of restrictions and lockdowns. However, some form of policy needs to be adopted for the next few years to stop the spread and reduce variants from occurring.
While the World catches up to the UK’s vaccine success there must be some recognition that the pandemic is not nearly over, it’s only just begun. The rate at which the virus is currently mutating is not safe and, without wishing to invoke doomsday, could very well spell the end of human civilization in the next 30 years. The theory that if the virus did leak from the Wuhan Gain-of-Function lab in China would make sense, seeing how fast and deadly the virus is currently mutating at. The UK must come up with a policy package to deal with this global threat before it is too late and while there is still time to do so.
One of French President Emmanuel Macron’s most explicit warnings in 2020, to the people of France and nations globally, was one of less globalism and less reliance on other nation states to provide adequate resources, so that in a pandemic situation, just like now, every nation can cope by itself without trade to reduce virus transmission and reduce delays within the vaccine supply chain.
Self-sufficiency in recent decades in a more globalized world has been viewed negatively by leading politicians, as free and friction-less trade has expanded and the world has shrunk, thanks to advancing transport technologies. However, such trade has placed the UK in a disadvantageous position should a global pandemic, such as Covid-19, hinder the UK’s ability to close its border to prevent invasion and the spread of a disease. Therefore, it can only be right that the UK Government should adopt a policy of self-sufficiency, so that should this pandemic and any future pandemic require the UK to close its borders fully, the nation could sustain itself indefinitely. This, mixed with a strict border policy over the next few years, is essential to stopping too many variants. However, it should be stressed this is not an argument for protectionism and the so-called economic benefits of it, but an insurance policy when trade could collapse now and in the future.
According to a 2020 article in the Pharmaceutical Journal, around 90% of the UK’s paracetamol comes from abroad and is mostly imported from India. This reliance on drugs is both a hindrance and an unreliable strategy for the UK should there be a shortage of paracetamol globally, especially when developing countries will increasingly rely on nations like India to supply them with pharmaceuticals. Therefore, the UK should construct drug and vaccine factories across Great Britain and Northern Ireland so that all four nations could be self-sustainable, if it was necessary to close borders. Scaling up the ability to produce vaccines will not only help the UK now but in the future as well, all while hopefully overproducing vaccines to give to our closest geographical neighbours. Getting the vaccine booster to these nations is also critical. However, a larger global effort is needed now to prevent Covid-19 from making the future even bleaker.
At the G7 summit in June, leaders agreed to donate less than £1 billion globally to the poorest nations by the end of 2022. By the time most of these vaccines are produced and distributed, the vaccines will be outdated by variant change. Therefore, it is now critical that as many countries as possible scale up vaccine production and quickly adapt to new variants. Hopefully, regulations on minimally altered vaccines shouldn’t require too long a clinical trial to assess safety and ethics. It is clear to me that nations need to be able to vaccinate their entire population within three months with two doses, all while having movement and border restrictions, for Covid-19 to be held at bay.
This current fuel “crisis” in the UK (and to a lesser extent globally) is showing how vulnerable a nation can be when it is not self-sufficient. If the UK had gas, an increased nuclear power supply, and more solar panels and wind turbines installed across the country, this issue would be much more minimal and possibly not even an issue. Alas, many still see imported gas and imported energy as the most effective way of keeping up with Britain’s energy demand. This will change over the next decade or two as politicians come to realise that wind and solar will become even cheaper and far more effective than they are currently, as well as when large scale industrial batteries (that aren’t made from rare metals) are developed and come into the public domain. Then self-sufficiency for Britain in the energy sector using hydro, solar, wind, and nuclear power will be easily possible and consumers will not have to worry about energy issues and companies won’t have to worry about energy prices soaring unexpectedly.
The world now has a choice to make: either bury its head in the sand and pretend that interconnectedness is always a force for good, or to do the right thing and spend significant financial resources to insure against disaster when the interconnected world collapses. The over-reliance on interconnectedness and just-in-time supply has shown with Covid, energy, migration, food and many other issues, that it is not a reliable system to function the correct way every time and nations must individually strive to be self-reliant, to protect themselves and their people when the system fails.