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Centre for Geopolitics

Providing historically-grounded solutions to enduring geopolitical problems

On Tuesday, the 21st of July, the Centre for Geopolitics held a joint video-panel with King`s College, Cambridge, and the Centre of Governance and Human Rights, also at the University of Cambridge. The title of this interdisciplinary event was “Beyond Coronavirus?” taking a long-term perspective on the COVID-19 crisis. The audience numbered just over 200 people.

After a quick introduction by Prof. Michael Proctor, the Provost of King’s, the panel – consisting of King’s fellows and alumni – kicked off its discussion. The event was chaired by Jason Sharman, the Sir Patrick Sheehy Professor of International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge.

Dr Charlotte Houldcroft, a King’s alumna and a College Research Associate, explained that the fact that the virus has already started to mutate is not worrying in and of itself, as all these mutations can still be engaged with by existing antibodies. Only once 60-70% of the global population were infected the virus would have to change significantly to be able to re-infect people. Also, she recommended investing in a program to test all arrivals at UK airports and harbours as a means to track the possibility of infections entering the country.

Ruhi Patel, a PhD student at King’s, presented the work of her and her team on the Open Ventilator Systems Initiative (OVSI). Given that access to ventilators has become a key aspect in the fight against coronavirus, OVSI has designed a ventilator that is robust, easy to manufacture and more affordable for middle- and low-income countries. Her presentation gave a fascinating and also visual insight into one of the key topics surrounding the battle against coronavirus over the past months.

Dr Sharath Srinivasan, Co-Director of the Centre of Governance and Human Rights and David and Elaine Potter Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies (Cambridge), looked at the issue of COVID-19 through the perspective of global development and inequality. Our individual experience of the virus depends on what country and what social or economic circumstance we find ourselves in. He also pointed to religion as a key factor in the narrative around the virus in some developing countries. As his research suggests, it can therefore be vital for governments to bring religious leaders on board in communication strategies around coronavirus.

Dr Kamiar Mohaddes from the Judge Business School compared the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis to previous crises such as the 1973 oil shock or the 2008 financial crisis. Compared to them, the current economic crisis seems to be much more severe. It is the first time since the Great Depression that a recession is global – all markets are impacted by it. This was, for example, different in the 2008 financial and economic crisis, when emerging markets were less affected and thus able to pull the rest of the world out of recession. He also expressed his worries that stock markets and broad economic trends seem unrelated. The SNP 500, he showed, is already almost back to pre-crisis levels, which indicates that stock markets seem to take a quick economic recovery – which is not certain – for granted.

Questions from the audience brought the discussion to questions of global inequality, race, the search for a vaccine against COVID-19 and the technical details of producing ventilators for middle- or low-income economies.

The video of the event can be found here


Report by Philipp Hirsch, Ax:son Johnson Research Assistant in Applied History, Centre for Geopolitics