2021-07-03:疫情远未结束,但已能窥见其影响

After the disease大病之后

The long goodbye to covid-19新冠肺炎,漫长的告别

The pandemic is still far from over, but glimpses of its legacy are emerging疫情远未结束,但已能窥见其影响

Jul 3rd 2021

WHEN WILL it end? For a year and a half, covid-19 has gripped one country after another. Just when you think the virus is beaten, a new variant comes storming back, more infectious than the last. And yet, as the number of vaccinations passes 3bn, glimpses of post-covid life are emerging. Already, two things are clear: that the last phase of the pandemic will be drawn-out and painful; and that covid-19 will leave behind a different world.

这场疫情什么时候才会结束?时间已过去一年半,新冠疫情席卷了一个接一个国家。就在人们认为病毒已被打败之时,新的变种卷土重来,比上一个更具传染性。尽管如此,随着疫苗接种数量超过30亿,我们已能管窥后疫情时代的生活。有两件事是非常明确的:疫情最后阶段将如抽丝剥茧般漫长痛苦;疫情之后世界将大有不同。

This week The Economist publishes a normalcy index, which reflects both these realities. Taking the pre-pandemic average as 100, it tracks such things as flights, traffic and retailing across 50 countries comprising 76% of Earth’s population. Today it stands at 66, almost double the level in April 2020.

本周《经济学人》发布了一个“正常状态指数”,以反映以上两种现实。我们将疫情前的平均水平设为100,追踪了占全球人口76%的50个国家的航班、交通和零售等多项数据。目前的平均值为66,差不多是2020年4月的两倍。

Yet the ravages of covid-19 are still apparent in many countries. Consider our index’s worst performer, Malaysia, which is suffering a wave of infections six times more deadly than the surge in January and scores just 27. The main reason for this is that vaccination remains incomplete.

然而,疫情显然仍在很多国家肆虐。比如,马来西亚目前正遭受一轮感染,致命率比1月高峰还要严重6倍,是本指数表上表现最差的国家,得分只有27。其主要原因在于疫苗接种还未全部完成。

In sub-Saharan Africa, suffering a lethal outbreak, just 2.4% of the population aged over 12 has had a single dose. Even in America, where vaccines are plentiful, only around 30% of Mississippians and Alabamans are fully protected. Although the world is set to produce around 11bn doses of vaccine this year, it will be months before all those jabs find arms, and longer if rich countries hog doses on the off-chance that they may need them.

撒哈拉以南非洲也正遭受一轮致命的疫情爆发。12岁以上的人口中只有2.4%接受了第一剂接种。即使在疫苗数量充足的美国,也只有30%的密西西比居民和阿拉巴马居民获得了充分保护。尽管今年全球计划生产约110亿剂疫苗,也要数月时间才能完成接种,若富裕国家出于可能会用得上的考虑而囤积疫苗,所需时间就更长了。

The lack of vaccination is aggravated by new variants. Delta, first spotted in India, is two to three times more infectious than the virus first found. Cases spread so fast that hospitals can rapidly run out of beds and medical staff (and sometimes oxygen), even in places where 30% of people have had jabs. Today’s variants are spreading even among the vaccinated. No mutation has yet put a dent in the vaccines’ ability to prevent almost all severe disease and death. But the next one might.

疫苗短缺的情况,由于新变种“德尔塔”而进一步恶化。德尔塔最先发现于印度,传染力是早先发现的病毒的二到三倍。其传播速度之快,即使在已有30%的人口接种了疫苗的地区,医院病床和医护人员也会迅速告急(有时连氧气都不够)。如今变种甚至可以在已经接种了疫苗的人群中传播。目前还没有一种变异毒株能削弱疫苗效力,因此疫苗能预防几乎所有重疾及死亡。但下一个变株也许就有如此威力。

None of this alters the fact that the pandemic will eventually abate, even though the virus itself is likely to survive. For those fortunate enough to have been fully vaccinated and to have access to new treatments, covid-19 is already fast becoming a non-lethal disease. In Britain, where Delta is dominant, the fatality rate if you become infected is now about 0.1%, similar to seasonal flu: a danger, but a manageable one. If a variant required a reformulated vaccine, it would not take long to create.

以上种种都不能改变这一事实,即疫情终将消除,尽管病毒本身很可能会存续下去。对于那些有幸获得全套接种,并能接受到新疗法的人来说,新冠肺炎已很快成了一种非致命性疾病。在德尔塔占主导地位的英国,若受到感染,死亡率仅为约0.1%,与季节性流感差不多:是威胁但可控。若要为某个变体重新配制疫苗,所花时间也不会太长。

However, as vaccines and treatments become more plentiful in rich countries, so will anger at seeing people in poor ones die for want of supplies. That will cause friction between rich countries and the rest. Travel bans will keep the two worlds apart.

然而,随着富裕国家的疫苗数量越来越多,治疗方法越来越丰富,眼看着贫困国家人民因供应短缺而大批死亡,人们也会感到越来越愤怒。这将导致富裕国家与其他国家之间发生摩擦。旅行禁令将使两个世界继续保持隔离状态。

Eventually flights will resume, but other changes in behaviour will last. Some will be profound. Take America, where the booming economy surged past its pre-pandemic level back in March, but which still scores only 73 on our index—partly because big cities are quieter, and more people work from home.

航班终将恢复,但行为方面的其他改变则将延续下去。有一些改变将产生深刻影响。比如美国,经济蓬勃发展,早在3月就已超过了疫情前的水平,但在我们的指数表上只得了73分——这部分是因为大城市经济并没有那么火热,而且更多人居家办公。

So far it looks as if the legacy of covid-19 will follow the pattern set by past pandemics. Nicholas Christakis of Yale University identifies three shifts: the collective threat prompts a growth in state power; the overturning of everyday life leads to a search for meaning; and the closeness of death which brings caution while the disease rages, spurs audacity when it has passed. Each will mark society in its own way.

到目前为止,疫情后的情况似乎将沿袭过去大流行病的模式。耶鲁大学的尼古拉斯·克里斯塔基斯(Nicholas Christakis)指出,有三种转变:集体面临威胁促使国家权力增长;日常生活倾覆,促使人们探索人生意义;疫情肆虐时,直面死亡促使人们胆小谨慎;疫情过后胆子又壮了起来。每种转变都会以各自的方式在社会上留下印记。

When people in rich countries retreated into their houses during lockdowns, the state barricaded itself in with them. During the pandemic governments have been the main channel for information, the setters of rules, a source of cash and, ultimately, providers of vaccines. Very roughly, rich-country governments paid out 90 cents for every dollar of lost output. Slightly to their own amazement, politicians who restricted civil liberties found that most of their citizens applauded.

封锁期间,富裕国家的人民纷纷居家隔离,各国也把自己反锁起来。疫情期间,各国政府是信息的主要渠道,规则制定者,资金来源,归根结底还是疫苗提供者。据非常粗略的估算,富国政府为每一美元的产出损失支付了90美分。要求限制公民自由的政客们,也不无惊讶地发现,大多数公民对此表示鼓掌欢迎。

There is a vigorous academic debate about whether lockdowns were “worth it”. But the big-government legacy of the pandemic is already on display. Just look at the spending plans of the Biden administration. Whatever the problem—inequality, sluggish economic growth, the security of supply chains—a bigger, more activist government seems to be the preferred solution.

关于“封锁是否值得”,学术界正展开一场激烈论争。但作为疫情的遗产,“大政府”姿态已然显现。只需看看拜登政府的支出计划你就明白了。无论什么问题——不平等,经济发展不振,供应链安全问题——更有力,更积极的政府似乎是首选解决方案。

There is also evidence of a renewed search for meaning. This is reinforcing the shift towards identity politics on both the right and the left, but it goes deeper than that. Roughly one in five people in Italy and the Netherlands told Pew, a pollster, that the pandemic had made their countries more religious. In Spain and Canada about two in five said family ties had become stronger.

还有证据显示,人们重新开始追寻生命意义。这推动了左派和右派向身份政治的转变。但其影响远不止于此。在意大利和荷兰,大约五分之一的人向民调机构皮尤表示,疫情使国民更加虔诚。在西班牙和加拿大,约五分之二的人称,家庭关系更加牢固了。

Leisure has been affected, too. People say they have had 15% more time on their hands. In Britain young women spent 50% longer with their nose in a book. Literary agents have been swamped with first novels. Some of this will fade: media firms fear an “attention recession”. But some changes will stick.

休闲方式也受到了影响。人们称,可支配的空闲时间多了15%。在英国,年轻妇女读书的时间增加了50%。数量众多的文学处女作让文学代理人应接不暇。有一些现象会慢慢消退:媒体企业担心会出现“注意力衰退”现象。但另一些现象则会得以保留。

For example, people may decide they want to escape pre-pandemic drudgery at work, and tight labour markets may help them. In Britain applications to medical school were up by 21% in 2020. In America business creation has been its highest since records began in 2004. One in three Americans who can work from home wants to do so five days a week, according to surveys. Some bosses are ordering people into the office; others are trying to entice them in.

比如,人们也许不想再从事疫情前做的那类单调繁重的工作,而紧张的劳动力市场可以助其达成所愿。在英国,申请就读医学院的人数在2020年增长了21%。在美国,自主创业数量达到自2004年有记录以来的最高值。据调查显示,可居家办公的美国人中,有三分之一希望一周五天都可以在家工作。有些老板采用命令的办法让员工回到办公室去,另一些则想方设法引诱他们回去。

Those who don’t die roll the dice 不死的来赌一把

It is still unclear whether the appetite for risk is about to rebound. In principle, if you survive a life-threatening disease, you may count yourself as one of the lucky ones and the devil may care. In the years after the Spanish flu a century ago, a hunger for excitement burst onto the scene in every sphere, from sexual licence to the arts to the craze for speed. This time the new frontiers could range from space travel to genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and enhanced reality.

人们的风险偏好是否会反弹,目前尚不清楚。原则上,如果你是一场危及生命的大病的幸存者,你也许会觉得自己很幸运,因此什么都无所谓。一个世纪以前,西班牙大流感过后好几年里,社会方方面面都爆发出一种对刺激的渴望,从性从业许可证的颁发到艺术领域再到人们对速度的狂热。而这一次新的冒险则包括航天旅行,基因工程,人工智能以及增强现实技术。

Even before the coronavirus came along, the digital revolution and climate change seemed to be bringing the post-second-world-war, Western-led order to an end. The pandemic will hasten the transformation. ■

即使在新冠病毒出现以前,数字革命以及气候变化,似乎已在推动着二战后由西方主导的国际秩序走向终结。疫情只会加速这一转型。

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