What if world 1

Chronic COVID

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Despite only ten years having passed since the start of the COVID global pandemic the BC (before COVID) years now seem a distant and rose-tinted memory to those that can remember them. The BC era is recollected with a tinge of melancholy as people reflect on a bygone time of relative abundance and free movement.

The three global empires (colloquially known as the ‘3 worlds’) remain precariously balanced in their domination of world affairs and control of people and resources, albeit for different reasons and using varied approaches. It is now clear to all that a geopolitical change agenda, devised in the final years of the BC era, was pursued early in the crisis and gained traction throughout the middle years. The ‘3 worlds’ world order has been largely accepted as having been secretly ratified at the G7 conference held virtually in 1WC (with COVID).

Since the year 3WC the Sino Empire (The Empire) has encompassed a major part of the Eurasian continent and beyond. It includes, amongst others, the BC era countries of China, Japan, South Korea and the main part of North Korea, Turkey (as an indirect result of the Chinese belt and road initiative) and much of southern Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and all surrounding islands).

New Zealand and Australia joined the Empire as it became clearer that the two alternative world powers were not serious in their plans to eradicate the virus wherever possible. The Sino Empire also controls a vast area of the Middle East and the African continent and, despite the fact that these territories are now largely uninhabitable due to global warming, is still embroiled in a cyber war with the Franco-Soviet Coalition to take full control of the abundant natural resources of these landmasses and their surrounding waters. The Empire controls the virus with frequent aggressive lockdown measures and stringent travel restrictions. Random population testing is deployed by the much-feared COVID eradication forces (COF) and anyone found to have the virus, or to be harbouring a sick friend or relative, is immediately transported to one of five deep cleansing facilities at various locations across the Empire for medical and sanitary procedures. There are rumours that those who recover from the infection remain at these locations working in forced labour camps (COVID Camps) and are forcibly made to partake in medical research.

The Franco-Soviet Coalition (The Coalition) is a vast area that stretches across what was formerly known as Russia, some of North Korea, Northern Europe (except for Germany, Switzerland and the UK and its surrounding islands), the Nordic area, Greenland (now a major military and medical research installation and scientific community), Iceland and the Arctic landmass and waters. The coalition started life as the Baltic nations were invaded by Russia once it became clear that European political and financial stability and cohesion was failing in the wake of the significant second wave of the virus. The post-COVID land division treaty followed, at which point France joined the coalition, quickly followed by many other BC era countries, in return for medical, financial and humanitarian aid. The virus has largely run out of control across the region for the last decade, and repeated waves of COVID have swept across the Coalition controlled landmass. The Coalition is rich in BC era energy resources and, until fission was perfected in 5WC, was able to procure medication and other valuable resources through the supply of power to the Empire and parts of Africa. Since the perfection of fission technology, the monetary value of energy has reduced exponentially and the COALITION area now finds itself deep in poverty, high levels of disease (COVID and other) and with significant spells of social unrest. The population is large, but productivity is at an all-time low and there is the potential for the Coalition to descend into a number of warring factions at any time.

The Continent (formerly the Americas) was established early in the second wave when it was clear that the population across both North and South America would be decimated. A treaty was drafted that expanded the existing idea of ‘United States’ beyond the initial area of the U.S.A. All South American nations along with Canada joined forces with the U.S.A to create a cohesive continent with military might and the benefit of no land borders with other global powers. The Continent was further aided by its strategic military and diplomatic outpost (and cyber command station) located on the land of what used to be the United Kingdom and Ireland. The second wave of the virus caused immeasurable heartbreak and a great depression (financial and social) to fall across The Continent. A far smaller population took some time to reorganise itself, but by 5WC had started to exploit the abundant resources available to it. The Continent defends its lands and waters mercilessly and continually seeks to destabilise The Coalition and The Empire through cyber activity and bio-medical sabotage.

Germany and Switzerland declared themselves neutral states (The Neutral Zone) and have, so far, managed to remain so. Both countries are highly respected globally and take a diplomatic role in assuaging the three great powers against war. Their borders are closed to all outsiders and all communications with other world powers is virtual. The Neutral Zone is very secretive; many across the 3 Worlds believe they may have perfected highly effective prophylactics and perhaps even a vaccine. They house what is left of BC era world bodies such as the UN (United Nations) and NGOs, and they collect and protect valuable BC era artefacts in an effort to curate and catalogue pre-COVID and early COVID history for future generations. They also manage the co-ordination of what remains of the global space exploration programme.

The Empire and The Continent once entered into a rare collaboration to perfect fission in order to reduce their reliance on The Coalition for energy. Now, in 10 WC, each of the 3 Worlds operate independently as far as possible with rare skirmishes at land borders and where sea lanes collide. Infrastructure is designed, developed and maintained locally, and supply chains are no longer global. As the virus mutates, the scientific communities across the world compete ferociously to be the first to find new prophylactic treatments that reduce its immediate and long-term effects. Due to the almost non-existent level of travel between the three global powers, the virus is now genetically quite different in each. When, from time to time, a strain manages to leap from one population into another, the effects can be catastrophic. This is especially true across The Empire due to the very low levels of virus in circulation.

Schooling has changed beyond recognition in each of the 3 Worlds. STEM, vocational and craft capabilities are recognised as the most useful, and most young people are encouraged to find a practical vocation towards which they should focus their studies. While there are some collaborative learning facilities (predominantly used for scientific experimentation and hands-on practice of engineering and crafts) most learning is conducted remotely.

Learners in wealthier areas create their own learning curriculum from a suite of courses and lessons (augmented by Virtual Reality technologies). In poorer locations, students are encouraged to form small groups around shared learning interests (learning cells) so that resources can be pooled. These students invariably experience a greater risk of catching the virus and learning cells are often found to have been a source of virus transmission.

The second wave of the COVID pandemic caused many people across the globe to accept death as a meaningful part of life. People now look to experience quality of life over quantity of life and euthanasia is broadly accepted in most territories for pre-determined conditions. This has rendered most forms of life insurance and critical health insurance null and void – most people are encouraged to seek euthanasia for themselves (or relatives) when pre-defined thresholds of life quality are breached.

Health provision is vastly different depending upon within which of the 3 Worlds you happen to live. Due to extensive resources and a small (and relatively young) population, The Continent offers free healthcare at point of need. Health and wellbeing are valued greatly, and extensive research is ongoing to create quality of life for all. The system is supported extensively by AI and robotic capabilities.

In The Empire, health provision is free for all but targeted towards the young and the working population. Medical assessment is offered virtually and face to face due to low COVID levels. Effective contribution to society is considered of far greater importance than lifespan. Once someone becomes incapacitated or chronically sick post-COVID or through other conditions, they are actively encouraged to seek euthanasia for the benefit of society. Across The Empire, selective euthanasia is considered to be the ultimate sacrifice and a celebration is held annually for Martyrs of the Empire. 

The Coalition has limited healthcare resources and most of the population are only able to access medical support through expensive insurance schemes. Now that the immunology and disease severity genetic profile is better understood, insurance is only available to those with limited COVID risk. This has created a 3-tiered society; the insured with extensive medical provision, the uninsurable with healthcare options via the dark-med, and the poor who have few options available to them.

Communication technology has taken giant leaps and it is now rare for people to socialise in groups. In various parts of the world a preference to live alone has taken hold, while others rely on matchmakers (who focus on genetics, health and valuable capabilities) to find a life partner. In wealthy areas, deliveries are undertaken by drone and transportation systems worldwide are predominantly automated and controlled centrally by AI (artificial intelligence).

The Neutral Zone coordinates COVID monitoring and reporting across the globe. The daily COVID count (like a pollen count) is presented across all media globally. A forecast of potential disease waves and identified mutations is delivered to all territories on a weekly basis, increasing to daily in times of high incidence.

The Chronic COVID world is a very different one to that we currently live in. COVID is still a major threat but is handled differently and with varying degrees of success by the powers that be in a substantially changed geopolitical landscape. Technology has revolutionised transportation, education, healthcare and energy production; creating new markets, sectors and products while rendering many BC era industries extinct. In just a decade, society has altered significantly and the concentration of power, money and resources across the world have shifted beyond recognition. The Chronic COVID world depicts a scenario where COVID is here to stay and its effects are far reaching.

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