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Post-pandemic recovery not guaranteed

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Post-pandemic recovery not guaranteed

Lucy Easthope, a one of the UK’s leading experts on disaster planning, he has advised the UK government on major international incidents such as 9/11, the Grenfell Tower fire, the war in Ukraine and of course the Covid pandemic . “If you were a pandemic planner in 2020, there have been few surprises in recent years,” Easthope says. “In those pandemic plans we wrote a reasonable worst-case scenario, and now we can live it.”

Emergency planners like Easthope know that the aftermath of a disaster can generally be roughly divided into three stages: the honeymoon (“or, as we call it now, the first lockdown”), the depression, and the rebound. “We are still in the crisis,” he says, referring to the United Kingdom. “We have reached a stage where all the signs of institutional collapse are here. The basic reliance on the healthcare system for the most privileged no longer exists. Failure is spoken out loud.”

However, Easthope warns that the rebound, the stage in which societies rebuild, is not always guaranteed. “It’s really important that no issue is left off the table and (that things are kept) apolitical,” he says. “Be very aware that the Titanic can sink, and leave arrogance at the door.”

Disaster planning research, for example, shows that the post-pandemic mental health crisis will continue for the next 30 to 40 years, with increased prevalence of alcohol and drug abuse in affected communities. “Recovery after these types of events is not a spring, but the worst kind of resistance,” says Easthope. “The only good thing that comes from a disaster like a pandemic is that it creates a unique opportunity to reexamine structures and institutions.”

This article appears in the July/August 2024 issue of UK WIRED Magazine.

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