The Incalculable Damage Done by Covid

AS 2022 MERCIIFULLY ENDS, there’s a temptation to find something upbeat to write about — but once again another year ends with a reflection on the astonishing damage done by Covid-19 and its variants.

THERE ARE MANY WAYS TO LOOK AT THIS HORRIFYIND DISEASE — we’ll focus on the raw data and the policy implications, which are still reverberating from China to the United Kingdom.

LATEST STATISTICS from the World Health Organization, as of yesterday, show that there have been 649,038,437 Covid and Covid-related cases globally and a staggering 6,645,812 deaths, according to the WHO. The U.S. recently topped 1 million fatalities, now standing at 1,087,672, with about 400 deaths daily in the U.S. this month.

THE UNOFFICIAL TOTALS undoubtedly are higher, as some countries such as Russia and Brazil have under-reported the extent of this catastrophe. There would have been millions more casualties, experts believe, if vaccines hadn’t been developed and administered quickly. And now it appears that still another wave is imminent, centered in China.

WHILE THESE STATISTICS ARE BEYOND DISPUTE, THE SECOND ENORMOUS IMPACT — policy failures and a lingering labor crisis — continues to evolve.

BOOKS WILL BE WRITTEN for decades about how the global economy reacted. The U.S. took the lead, administering trillions of dollars in aid, which reduced the immediate economic pain, but this had a profound impact on labor, as workers took a hard look at their lives and dropped out of traditional jobs. The generous government aid played a major role.

NOWHERE IS THIS LABOR UNREST MORE APPARENT than in Great Britain, which is enduring an enormous upheaval as strikes grow in nursing, creating chaos in hospitals. The average nurse’s salary in the UK is about $43,000 a year. The government is proposing a 4.75% salary increase; the nurses’ union wants 19%.

THE U.K. FACES WALKOUTS by firefighters, baggage handlers, paramedics, driving examiners, immigration officers, bus drivers, construction workers, mail carriers and railway conductors, The public has been warned to avoid train travel on Christmas Eve.

THIS IS NOT ENTIRELY CONNECTED TO COVID, of course, but after years of Covid deaths and sacrifices, nurses and other workers want — at least — to keep pace with inflation.

THERE WAS NO TEMPLATE for dealing with the worst pandemic in a century; the mammoth infusion of cash in countries like the U.S. was too stimulative, helping to produce the worst inflation in decades, which caught the Federal Reserve off guard — a policy error that may require a self-inflicted recession.

WE WOULD LIKE TO CONCLUDE that the Covid crisis is about over, but less than 20% of Americans have gotten booster shots, with a vast majority concluding that any more vaccines are unnecessary. And like everything in America, the issue is fiercely polarized.

IN MANY RESPECTS, THE U.S. AND CANADA ARE IN REASONABLY GOOD SHAPE: If a recession comes by next summer, it may be brief and shallow. That’s not the case in much of the world, as unrest persists and Covid, tragically, remains far from eradicated.

Related: What’s the Exit Path in Ukraine? Five Scenarios

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