ISSN 2330-717X

The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Far From Over – Analysis

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Not many people seem to realize that we are not exiting the COVID-19 pandemic — it still exists and is still causing problems. Scotland and England are currently of interest in terms of case numbers that are once again rising. Meanwhile an outbreak in China is hurting the country’s economy at what is a key time for Beijing and the rest of the world.

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Renewed outbreaks are likely to once again circle the globe. They come as many countries are dropping mask mandates and other precautions in an attempt to resume normal life, so people in many places might be in for a surprise in the form of a sudden return to precautionary restrictions. This could result in more debate, dissent and opposition. Meanwhile supply shortages could become increasingly common and, perhaps, the “new normal” for several years.

There is a new variant of the coronavirus that we should be aware of, beyond the usual suspects identified previously. This BA.2 variant called “deltacron” may be responsible for a sharp increase in cases in Scotland. The new variant is highly contagious and cases have been rising steeply in the UK for at least the past week. Just as normal activity was beginning to resume in England, a new round of precautionary measures may be required, a move that is highly likely to face resistance among the bulk of the population.

Authorities in China have announced sweeping new lockdowns in the face of rapidly increasing numbers of positive tests for the virus. Bejing employs a strict “zero-COVID” strategy that has included lockdowns spanning 19 provinces, including major industrial and port areas such as Shenzhen and sections of Shanghai.

While overall case numbers remain relatively low, positive test results in China more than doubled overnight and tripled over the course of three days last weekend. As a result, Shenzhen, a city of 17.5 million people, was ordered into a strict lockdown. All nonessential workers are required to stay at home for a week and during that time the entire adult population will be tested three times for the virus.

In Shanghai, targeted lockdowns of schools, businesses, restaurants and malls have been ordered. As one observer pointed out, if workers cannot leave their homes, products cannot be manufactured or transported, and Shenzhen and Shanghai are the country’s major electronics manufacturing hubs.

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Foxconn, a major supplier to Apple, closed two of its largest manufacturing operations in the province on Monday and expects them to remain idle for the duration of the week-long stay-at-home order. As a result, the company’s share price has taken a big hit on global exchanges.

This is just one company but as much as 90 percent of electronics manufacturing in China takes place in the region and the products pass through the port at Shenzhen.

Shenzhen is also close to Hong Kong, which is attempting to control dramatic COVID-19 surges and ordering lockdowns of its own. As part of the efforts to slow the spread of the virus, limits have been imposes on travel between the two. The ferry from Shenzhen to Hong Kong airport has been suspended and trucks are required to switch drivers at the border.

All of these pandemic-related problems in China come as the eyes of the world are on Russia’s war on Ukraine. Given the ongoing disruptions to global supply chain networks caused by COVID-19, the current events in eastern Europe can only add to the problems.

The full extent of the damage caused by disease, supply chain disruptions and war will become apparent in the coming months and it is crucial that we monitor it closely.

Dr. Theodore Karasik

Dr. Theodore Karasik is a senior advisor to Gulf State Analytics and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Lexington Institute in Washington, D.C. He is a former Advisor and Director of Research for a number of UAE institutions. Dr. Karasik was a Lecturer at the Dubai School of Government, Middlesex University Dubai, and the University of Wollongong Dubai where he taught “Labor and Migration” and “Global Political Economy” at the graduate level. Dr. Karasik was a Senior Political Scientist in the International Policy and Security Group at RAND Corporation. From 2002-2003, he served as Director of Research for the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy. Throughout Dr. Karasik’s career, he has worked for numerous U.S. agencies involved in researching and analyzing defense acquisition, the use of military power, and religio-political issues across the Middle East, North Africa, and Eurasia, including the evolution of violent extremism. Dr. Karasik lived in the UAE for 10 years and is currently based in Washington, D.C. Dr. Karasik received his PhD in History from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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