The coronavirus epidemy is exhausting the healthcare systems in many countries. Medical staff are bravely trying to save lives under increasingly dramatic circumstances.
Most countries’ health systems have not been prepared for the pandemic. In European welfare societies, health service providers are narrowly focused on caring for the sick at the expense of prevention, promotion of healthy lifestyles or emergency planning. The systems are mainly monopolized by governments – directly and indirectly through compulsory public medical insurance schemes. These components are critical for policymaking. In many countries, they are also very wasteful.
Preventive health and strengthening patients’ immune systems have never been a priority. The welfare state consistently misled citizens by letting them believe that their health was the public administration’s, not personal responsibility.
This is a precarious, good-weather-only system. Civil defense preparedness in most of Europe – stocks of food, medical supplies and other critical materials; cybersecurity, contingency plans for emergencies – is highly inadequate. The shortsighted, lopsided healthcare policies left the countries utterly unprepared for the epidemic. The “we know best” political sphere was also taken by surprise.
The result is that Europe is now getting overwhelmed. Much of public life and the economy is closed in an attempt to slow down – not contain – the disease’s progress. Governments are reduced to trying to adapt the pandemic to the available hospital resources, not the other way around. Barely concealed panic among people permeates news accounts. Worse, we have casualties, mostly among elderly citizens, caused by insufficient immune response. And the damage to the economy is enormous.
All affected countries are forced to make massive new outlays to try to shore up their economies, which is especially damaging for those with high public debt (i.e., most Western countries). Such a jump in public expenditure may indeed help, assuming that it would recede once the crisis is over. However, experience tells us that an emergency is often used to elevate the level of public spending permanently.
Against this grim backdrop, we should be grateful for the heroic work performed by medical staff and appreciate that citizens are accepting the limitations imposed on them at this trying time with such admirable discipline and responsibility.
Prince Michael of Liechtenstein
Chairman and Founder