Post-Pandemic Recovery Isn’t Guaranteed | WIRED

Post-Pandemic Recovery Isn’t Guaranteed | WIRED

Lucy Easthope, one of the UK’s top experts in disaster planning, 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, then there have been few surprises over the past few years,” Easthope says. “In those pandemic plans we wrote a reasonable worst-case scenario—and now we get to live it.”

Emergency planners such as Easthope know that the aftermath of a disaster can usually be divided roughly into three stages: the honeymoon (“Or, as we call it now, lockdown one”), the slump, and the uptick. “We’re still in the slump,” she says, of the UK. “We’ve reached a stage where all signs of institutional collapse are here. Basic reliance on the health care system for the most privileged is now gone. Failure gets talked about loudly.”

However, Easthope warns that the uptick, the stage when societies rebuild, isn’t always guaranteed. “It’s really important to have no issue be off the table and [to keep things] nonpolitical,” she says. “To be very aware that the Titanic can sink, and to leave the hubris at the door.”

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

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

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