One year into the pandemic: the world has changed, let's make it better

Inaki Peralta
Published by Iñaki Peralta
CEO, Europe and Latin America

15 March 2021 . Spain

“This storm will pass. But the choices we make now could change our lives for years to come”.

The historian Yuval Noah Harari wrote this sentence in March 2020 in an article in The Financial Times, which is worth re-reading a year later. And in the same article, Harari spoke of something as important as the need to work together on a global plan to fight against the health emergency. At that time it was crucial for us to come together to make decisions that would shape our future. In some respects I think we've succeeded, although there's still a long way to go.

Today I’m not going to talk about how the pandemic has accelerated digitisation. Or how it has changed the way we work. 12 months into the pandemic, we really need to have a rethink about what kind of society we want to continue building, adapting to this new situation and with the lessons learned always in the back of our minds. It has been a very tough year in which things have changed dramatically and very quickly. However, lockdown and restrictions on movement have given us something very important that we've all been lacking: time. Valuable time that in many cases we've used to do things that we couldn't do before. Spending more time with our families, reading, discovering new hobbies... but also to think, to dream about the world we'd like to have once the pandemic is over.

Looking back, we realise that we've adapted to living with this virus. We can hardly remember what it was like to go outside without a face mask on. Our habits haven't changed. We've transformed in this period; we've become much more resilient. We're part of the change brought about by this virus and it's up to us not to lose that desire to change the world, to improve the society we live in, to build a better future for our children. And to that end, I invite you to stop and think about what you’ve learned in the last few months and, with these lessons, think about how to continue developing. What are the lessons that I can take away from this?Firstly, let's take the opportunity to build a more inclusive society. And to do so, let's use all the tools at our disposal, including digital tools. Thanks to technology, we know that we can bring health to a wider range of people.

It's also important to understand that there's only: One Health. Our individual health depends on the health of the planet. As a matter of fact, 31% of infectious disease outbreaks are linked to deforestation.

Moreover, this year I believe that together we've managed to make sure that mental health is no longer a taboo subject. The WHO has defined “pandemic fatigue” as a condition that we're all suffering from in general, but which is sometimes developing into more serious problems, such as depression. Let’s do all we can to highlight this problem and help society to manage this situation, especially the elderly and healthcare professionals, but also the younger members of society.

In this regard, I'd like to give a special mention to healthcare professionals and workers in care homes. You're an example for the whole of society. You've been on the frontline fighting a virus for a year and we have a lot to learn from you. You work every day for the common good, to protect everyone. We can't thank you enough for all that you're doing, but the example you've set should help us to be more responsible for the world around us.

And lastly, as Harari said, we've shown that by working together we're stronger. The most obvious example is that we've managed to develop a vaccine in a year. Or, on a smaller scale, we're also witnessing how by collaborating together on Open Data projects, such as Sanitas' Data4Good initiative to make our covid-19 data available to the scientific community, we can improve scientific research.

One year later, Covid-19 is still here. And it may be here to stay for a while longer. But let's not lose focus of the most important thing: let's learn from what we're experiencing and think about how we can contribute to improving the world we live in. We're all part of this transformation and the choices we make are shaping the future.

Inaki Peralta

Iñaki Peralta

CEO, Europe and Latin America

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