Prof. Damien Ernst is a respected scientific authority in his chosen field (energy), but his vision on the Coronavirus crisis is astonishingly lucid. For weeks he has been continuously alerting the authorities to the consequences of this unprecedented crisis and the urgency of the situation. Today, everything he predicted about the Coronavirus crisis has come true. What can we expect in the coming weeks and months? That’s what I wanted to know when I interviewed him today.
I think that the best strategy at the moment would perhaps be the Chinese strategy or a very, very harsh regime for 2 or 3 months, and we have no more cases.
The picture he paints is black, not to say an apocalyptic one. In particular, it recommends that measures identical to those applied in China and South Korea be taken, that is to say, total confinement for 2 to 3 months.
Scientifically, the only thing we know at the moment is that callous strategies in terms of social distancing have worked in China, Singapore, Korea, people in those countries who have also experienced the SARS crisis and who have gained experience in managing this infection. At present, we have no certainty that the social distancing measures being taken in Belgium, which are already very strong, will be sufficient to contain the contamination, and we will only know for sure in about ten days. Now, it is not a question of containing the disease that we need; it is not a question of continually having many patients to reach the limit of hospital capacity. If you are in a context like that and you consider that 40, 60, 80% of the population must ultimately be contaminated to have this group immunity, you will need years of these semi-confinement measures. I think that the best strategy at the moment would be the Chinese strategy or a very, very harsh regime for 2 or 3 months, and we have no more cases.
We are going to have to protect our borders. We are going to have companies that are much more vulnerable than Asian companies that so far have managed the crisis much better.
On the economic impact, Damien Ernst also adopts a language of truth which, it must be admitted, is completely lacking with our politicians. We are in a war situation,” he says, “and we need to address the Coronavirus problem first before we can consider a stimulus package. On this point, I can only agree with him. I also don’t understand how the stock markets can remain open when the real economy is at a standstill. This is what Damien Ernst says:
We are in a war, in a kind of war economy. I don’t think that when the Germans invaded us in 1940, we thought of supporting SMEs and businesses. Of course, we have to help them, but the goal is to solve this problem first. Then I think that we are going to take a completely different approach to support businesses, we are going to need a massive recovery plan at European level. Of course, companies cannot go bankrupt; it is the countries that will have managed the crisis best, namely China, which has been affected very little per million inhabitants. And who will crush the entire European economic fabric, even more than they are doing at present!
In this podcast, he explains what to expect in the energy market, which has been further disrupted by the “war” between Saudi Arabia and Russia over the reduction of production quotas.
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