Covid-19: how it will change the world | The Economist
Former US Secretary of Homeland Security – on the challenges facing the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
Michael Chertoff (Michael Chertoff), US Secretary of Homeland Security in the George W. Bush administration, who headed this department during the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, in an interview with Voice of America Russian service Daria Dieguts shared his opinion on whether the parallels between the scale of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic are appropriate , and the terrorist attack on the United States almost twenty years ago.
Michael Chertoff: I would say this is a slightly different scale. But this does not mean that it is less serious. A pandemic is not a sudden thing. This crisis has been brewing for some time. This was not a surprise. On the other hand, for all the horrors of the 9/11 attack, it was relatively localized, while the current crisis is global in nature and its impact is felt throughout the world. Therefore, the scale of the impact is geographically much larger than 9/11..
Daria Dieguts: Health experts today say that global pandemics have not received enough attention in previous administrations. How do you think this will change after the coronavirus pandemic?
M.Ch.A: Firstly, I can say that after 9/11 and while I was in the government, in the Department of Homeland Security, we paid a lot of attention to pandemics and the possible use of biological weapons. We were concerned about the possibility of natural phenomena such as pandemic or swine flu. We have created a pathogen recognition system and also created a national reserve. We had a very detailed plan of action in such situations. A week before the transition from the Bush administration to President Obama, we held exercises with the new team to show what they will have to face in the event of a biological threat. Vigilance has dropped in the past few years. After all, there were many false alarms – neither SARS nor MEPC have become a global threat. However, the coronavirus pandemic will change everything. Making health care more resilient to external threats will become as much a part of our lives as aviation security.
D.D.: Speaking about the changes, experts express fears that the coronavirus pandemic could significantly affect freedom of movement and migration policy…
M.Ch.: I think changes are to be expected in the short term. First of all, the entire aviation system suffered from this crisis and suffered losses. The renewal will take place gradually. Also, many people have realized that they can surf the Internet. They don’t need to go to meetings. Business travel will remain, but the number will decrease. I think concerns about a new outbreak of the disease could lead to changes in the rules for checking passengers during border crossings. At the same time, I do not think that the changes will be radical and, over time, we will return to something similar to what it was. However, we will remain on the alert and a certain reduction in international travel will still occur..
D.D.: In an attempt to stop the pandemic, some countries, such as Russia and especially China, are using technology to spy on citizens. Do you think similar measures are possible or useful in the United States?
M.Ch.: There are two types of surveillance. The first already exists – the so-called anonymous large-scale removal of information. It makes it possible to see where people are, while not revealing the identity of individuals. Information like this can alert you to a potential outbreak and to issue an order to stay at home. This does not pose any particular risks to civil liberties. But it matters for epidemiology.
Another type of monitoring is actually tracking people by their location. If information appears that they have been in contact with an infected person, they are warned about the need to isolate themselves. Of course, this practice can be very helpful and there is no doubt that it would help control the spread of the virus. But there is also a great risk of misuse of this data. So while I think we’re going to move in this direction – Europe is also starting to take this approach – I think the use of technology should be accompanied by very clear rules about how long the data is stored and what it can be used for. And this is important to determine before we allow such measures..
D.D.: And my last question is when can we really expect to start simplifying quarantine?
M.Ch.A: I think it will depend on two factors. First, how quickly we get approved and ready-to-distribute drugs, and ultimately, how quickly we get the vaccine. It is very important.
The second element is observing the graph of new infections – when we see that the curve flattens and fewer people get infected. And in fact, the last question to which no one knows the answer: will this situation change over the summer, as it happens with the flu? And even if the virus returns in the fall – will it be weaker or stronger? There are some things that we cannot control. But we can control the magnitude of the outbreak. We can speed up the process of finding a cure and vaccine. But from the point of view of the graph of the infection curve, we can only wait.