I thrilled you bring you the latest edition of Open Central Asia magazine – confined from our lockdown in the UK. Despite these quite extraordinary times we are living through, the team continue to do their best and cover events albeit remotely. Of course numerous planned events have now been cancelled and others are nervously waiting to see how things will pan out. I dare say that Coronavirus has now pretty much touched all parts of our lives and will continue to do so for many months, and indeed we will feel the effects (economic and personal) for many years to come.
When I wrote the welcome word to the edition just over a month ago, Coronavirus was in the headlines but with what feels now was a relatively modest 70,000 cases. Today it stands at almost ten times that. Sadly as I look back at the words I wrote back then, they were remarkably prescient. The world has shut down – words I could not imagine I would ever utter. People do not and cannot drive except for essential work and supplies. People cannot fly – freedoms have been curtailed in unimaginable ways in both democratic and autocratic countries. I wrote that I feared local containment would not work and it hasn’t – the virus is spreading faster than wildfire – a pandemic now officially declared. Supermarkets have been emptied in the panic of people (mostly irrationally and unhelpfully as the supply chains have groaned under the pressure). Travel bans have seriously depressed the oil price and the global economy is suffering enormously. Share prices, that I remarked had remained disturbingly high given events, have cratered – governments have produced magic rabbits from invisible hats to provide stimulus and assistance where possible. It is not clear that this will be enough to stop a severe and long-lasting recession. And now, as I expected, Central Asia is starting to see itself at the beginning of the curve of infections.
These are extraordinary times – and yet within them we always find stories of hope and help. Stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to try and maintain our civilisation as we know it. Although we will focus more on these stories and how the situation has evolved in the coming issue, I look at this issue combined with the goodness I see around me here in the UK, where people volunteer to put themselves on the frontline every day, and it reminds me to have faith in humanity and its resilience. This, despite huge personal tragedy and sacrifice that many are having to make right now. We will get through this and I sincerely hope we have the chance to become a better world as a result.
As always do drop me a note if you have any stories or discussions to share – it’s great to stay connected, even if socially distanced.