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Coping with the Challenges of COVID-19 Using the Sociotype Framework: A Rehearsal for the Next Pandemic

Wen Peng and Elliot M. Berry


The world, as a global village, is currently taking part in a real-time public health, medical, socio-cultural, and economic experiment on how best to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures. Depending on the time from the outbreak, strategies have ranged from minimal intervention to mitigation by quarantine for high-risk groups (elderly with chronic illnesses) to containment and lockdown. Adherence to such restrictions have depended on the individual and national psyche and culture. One can understand and forgive governments for being over-cautious, but not for being ill-prepared. It seems that Singapore after SARS (2003) and South Korea after MERS (2015) learnt from their experiences and have fared relatively well with minimal disruption to daily routines. Coping with the challenge of COVID-19 is an urgent global task. We use the Sociotype ecological framework to analyze different coping responses at three levels: Context (government and leadership, social context, health services, and media); Relationships; and the Individual. We describe the many negative outcomes (e.g. mortality [obviously], unemployment, economic damage, food insecurity, threat to democracy, claustrophobia) and the positive ones (e.g. new, remote teaching, working, and medical routines; social bonding and solidarity; redefining existential values and priorities) of this surreal situation, which is still evolving. We highlight the importance of humor in stress reduction. Regular and reliable communication to the public has to be improved, acknowledging incomplete data, and learning to deal with fake news, misinformation, and conspiracy theories. Excess mortality is the preferred statistic to follow and compare outcomes. When the health risks are over, the economic recovery responses will vary according to the financial state of countries. If world order is to be reshaped, then a massive economic aid plan should be launched by the rich countries—akin to the Marshall plan after the Second World War. It should be led preferably by the USA and China. The results of the tradeoffs between health and economic lockdowns will only become apparent in the months to come. The experiences and lessons learned from this emergency should be used as a rehearsal for the next epi-/pandemic, which will surely take place in the foreseeable future.