When South Africa entered the initial 2 week lockdown at the end of April 2020, many people thought the Covid-19 pandemic would be nipped in the bud and life would quickly go back to normal. Scientists and economists, of course, were warning that the new virus was here to stay and that the world was in for a long, hard time fighting the illness.
Now, as we are nearing the end of 2020, we look ahead to 2021 and wonder what it will hold.
Here is a quick look at 4 things you can expect in 2021.
1. The 2nd Wave
Back in 1918 & 1919 it was the second wave of Spanish Flu that took the most lives, not the initial outbreak. At present, Europe has been hard hit by their second wave (a wave caused primarily due to human behaviour). As winter hit the northern hemisphere transmission rates increased and sadly, so have infection and death rates.
While South Africa is currently enjoying a nice warm summer, which helps as it encourages people to increase ventilation etc. Winter will eventually roll around again. It remains to be seen what impact this has, but it is anticipated that rates will climb as winter begins. Another factor in the spread of the virus is non-essential social contact with infected people. With a December break coming for most people, and with many planning to visit family and friends over this time, we can predict infection numbers to climb swiftly. Those returning from family and friends in other provinces are expected to spread the virus back home when they return, especially when using public transport.
It seems that every country is developing its own vaccine. Never before has there been as strong a financial and political drive to develop some sort of treatment (almost any type of treatment) for a flu virus. 2021 will see the production of many different and competing vaccines, all with different pros and cons. The pharmaceutical companies who
have a vaccine in the works have pre-sold 90% or more of what they will be able to produce next year to 1st world countries. For 3rd world countries, like SA, it will be a case of (1) who will sell us vaccines, and (2) can we safely store and distribute the vaccine (some require staying at minus 80 degrees at all times)?
Even when a vaccine/ vaccines come to SA, the question is, who gets it first (will it be doctors and children for example or the politicians and rich people). Will rich people be able to privately buy the vaccine through their medical aid or private hospital? Time will tell, but history tells us that those with money tend to come off best during pandemics. We may see a repeat of this trend in 2021. Since vaccine production has been rushed through, so many people will be hesitant to take it. Already many people have become anti-vaccine over the years and others will simply want to be cautious and wait for others to take it first so they can see if there will be negative long term effects. So, you may have a divide among those who want it and those who refuse. This is a complex issue.
It may be that the vaccine(s) are only effective for a short time period, or that Covid-19 may mutate over time and eventually pharmaceutical firms will need to develop and sell a new annual vaccine, similar to what currently happens with flu shots. It is good money for them if that is how it plays out and deals with the reality that Covid-19 may simply be
around for the foreseeable future, spiking in the population every winter for years to come.
3. Economic Fall Out
Millions of South Africans lost their jobs in 2020 due to the lockdown, and resultant economic collapse. People shifted their shopping habits which massively impacted on many businesses (like restaurants who had to close or shift to take-out options). Not to mention people without income simply had no money to spend, which meant many businesses
suddenly had no one coming to buy things. This in turn meant they could not pay staff or their suppliers.
Economic recovery in the wake of a Pandemic will be a long time in the making. Some people blame the economic impact of World War 1 and the pandemic that followed in 1918 for the eventual rise of Fascism and the Nazi party two decades later, in a still impoverished Europe. We can expect the Rand value to come under increased pressure based on National debt levels. This makes imported items more expensive and exporting items more desirable.
Locally, government is planning on creating lots of jobs in the months ahead. However, it’s worthwhile realizing that job creation is always on the political agenda, and has been for many decades now. So has housing and providing electricity and good plumbing. There is a massive need right now, and similar job programs were successfully used in the past, in many countries, to stave off mass starvation and homelessness. Many businesses will continue to look for ways to cut costs and even reduce staff overheads by turning to technology and outsourcing. For some, this means new opportunities, but for others the loss of past income. Adaptability and creativity will be key to survival.
4. Social Change
Already we have seen how a large number people have decided not to protect others, by simply wearing their facemasks. This may relate to inconvenience, frustration and inconsiderateness or may be a result of isolated for prolonged periods of time. There seems to be a worldwide tendency towards selfish behavior, which is not new, but has recently become more apparent.
During lockdown, the clear connection between alcohol abuse and domestic violence was highlighted as families were confined to their homes, with tensions running high. Many people realized they might like to have a larger home with faster internet access.
A lack of sympathy or empathy is a dangerous thing in the long run. It creates negative social behavior resulting in crime and xenophobia. As already mentioned, economic pressure often drives people to pretty extreme views and attitudes. In Germany and Italy in the 1930’s, a common idea was that people who were of different religious or ethnic backgrounds were to blame for all the problems in those countries at the time (typical xenophobia). It saw the rise of extreme political leaders and views, which ironically coincided with the economic recovery in those countries as they entered a war footing. Will we see similar attitudes and developments locally or even worldwide? Time will tell.
Social distancing is not a natural state for people, and many people have been suffering from depression and anxiety due the pandemic. As money gets tighter, and more people plunge into debt to survive, we can expect to see these issues become more common as we approach the second year of the ‘pressure cooker’ that is this Covid-19 Pandemic.
Ready Or Not 2021 Here We Come.
For many, crossing the physiological barrier of 1st Jan 2021 will create a huge sense of relief and hopefulness. There will no doubt be many other developments in regard to technology and finance as 2021 unfolds. Let’s hope that most of them will be positive and improve our lives.
Another trend we will hopefully see next year, is more people turning to debt review as a way to deal with the financial pressure they face. It certainly offers a more manageable way for consumers to deal with their debts. If you have been taking financial strain and are looking for help, why not talk to a NCR registered professional Debt Counsellor about
your current situation?
What remains to be seen is how credit providers, who themselves are under increasing pressure to recover from the lost revenue of the lockdown and economic crash, react. Will we see credit providers make wider and longer lasting concessions on top of those they already have been making to the industry or will we see collections pressure from
above start to create a more antagonistic attitude in the industry? We can hope for the former while not being surprised by the later, if it happens. As always it will be up to the big banks to take the lead in this regard.
After a very tough and scary year, the good news is that 2021 is coming whether we want it or not. The bad news is that it’s coming whether we are ready for it or not.