Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19)
The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has the potential for extraordinary consequences. In this special dossier we assess its impact at distinct levels and areas, and the global challenges of managing this crisis.En español
The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential for extraordinary consequences at all levels. Like the international terrorism crisis 20 years ago and the euro crisis a decade ago, it highlights the relevance of global governance and European integration to our daily lives. Spain is among the countries with the highest initial incidence of the virus, underlining the need for a rigorous, multidisciplinary approach aligned with the responses of other countries, the European Union and international organisations like the WHO and the G20. This Elcano Royal Institute special dossier aims to contribute to this objective.
The challenge in terms of health alone is enormous: it is necessary to prevent the unchecked spread of the virus, coordinate national responses, reduce the impact on the normal functioning of hospital systems and search for a vaccine. After dealing with the immediate human crisis, we must also address the trust of highly interconnected populations with a level of awareness that allows them to evaluate the scientific–medical and political capacity to respond to pandemics like COVID-19.
However, health is not the only priority. We also need to tackle the major economic challenges posed by this black swan event. The coronavirus will cause direct damage due to the sharp fall in demand and supply-side disruption, the consequences of which will depend on the duration of the crisis and how it is managed at every level (international, supranational and national). Effective leadership capacity at these three levels is critical. While there is the chance to emerge stronger, the pandemic comes at a critical juncture for multilateralism and integration. We do not envisage a recession like 2008–2013 but there will be an impact on employment, with all the associated consequences for social cohesion and politics. Failure to respond correctly may even jeopardise the sustainability of the monetary union once again, although there is also the potential for it to emerge stronger. Moreover, there are various economic areas in which the effects of the crisis could be positive, such as technology, mobility and energy dependence.
It will also have an impact on security and freedom. Like many countries, in Spain, it will test the capacity to reinforce the emergency system, as well as the continuity of supply chains and measures to restrict mobility (which may be extreme and are already affecting the country internally, as well as the Schengen area and global migration flows). It is also essential not to overlook the importance of managing public alarm and the need for a strategic communications policy that covers the population as a whole and combats the disinformation and rumours spread on increasingly globalised social networks. This is not only a matter of the effectiveness and legitimacy of the health system or European economic governance but also of national security.
Finally, we can expect geopolitical repercussions in the context of the growing rivalry between the USA and China, and even deglobalisation (the erecting of barriers to the movement of people and factors of production has the potential to reduce trade and travel) and more distrust between people or governments. At the regional level, there is the risk the crisis could exacerbate Euroscepticism. The EU’s ability to step up to the challenge and the ability of government to play a proactive role in the response will be critical to safeguarding the interests and values widely shared by Spanish and European society.
Documents & resources
Comisión Europea / European Commission: Respuesta al coronavirus / Coronavirus Response.
International Crisis Group: COVID-19 and Conflict: Seven Trends to Watch.
European Parliamentary Research Service: Coronavirus (COVID-19) [What Think Tanks Are Thinking].
Global Trade Alert: The Trade Policy Dimension. Tackling Coronavirus.
Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU): Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases.
The COVID Tracking Project: The COVID Tracking Project web.
Worldometer: COVID-19 Coronavirus Outbreak.