On February 3, 2020, when we were still very far from case number one being recorded in Italy (February 21), and even further from the classification of COVID-19 as a pandemic (March 11), I outlined two phenomena in Huffington Post that would subsequently prove significant and probably recurrent.
On February 3, there was still talk of suspending the celebrations for the Chinese New Year and of a crisis in luxury tourism, but little else. My argument, given the advanced stage of the globalization process, was that any natural event that was beyond the control of humans and affected some of the global value production chains could have caused much wider socioeconomic domino effects than we could imagine, given the dense web of links that exist in our world. The second part of my argument was that these combinations of natural phenomena and economic shocks, in addition to having profound effects, would become more recurrent.
The COVID-19 crisis is part of a well-defined but constantly evolving context; the pandemic will not be a defining element of the 2020s, but rather a pretext to encourage or slow down existing trends. Comparisons with similar events of the past are irrelevant because the context in which we find ourselves today is very different from previous ones. Concepts like the digitalization, virtualization and intergenerational responsibility associated with globalization mean that 2020 is light years away from the SARS period of 2002-2004. A more significant comparison, albeit not supported by evidence, could be drawn with the Black Death of the fourteenth century, 1346-1353, and the start of the Renaissance. In any case, COVID-19 remains a unique natural phenomenon, with economic and social consequences that remain to be analyzed.