It has been six months since the arrival in Europe of this epidemic, about which we have heard everything and nothing. And it’s far from over. However, the famous “next world” is taking shape. In truth, the plans for that world have been drawn up for quite some time – they are those of the fourth industrial revolution, the supreme stage of capitalism, and Covid-19 represents an almost unhoped-for opportunity to speed up its implementation. This is the firm conviction of German economist Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the “High Mass” of the Davos Forum, where the most influential decision-makers meet. The theme of the next forum, to be held in January 2021, will be “Covid-19: The Great Reset.” Could also be translated as: the great reboot, or better: the reset to zero. Automation, computerisation and general robotisation: this is the recipe for reset. Which is nothing more than what Michel Houellebecq described as the obsolescence of human relations.

We are already there. Protective measures, social distancing: these dreadful expressions say what they mean: barrier to gestures, goodbye to sociality – it’s the bodies that need to be brought into line. Make way for muzzles. A curious neologism is born – présentiel [TN: a special word invented to describe the now unusual occasion of actually meeting someone “face-to-face”] – as a new concept taking precedence over the now suspect phenomenon of actual presence. Why this escalation in protective measures, if not to make people forget the general negligence of the health authorities at the beginning of the epidemic and the inconsistency of the measures taken after the lifting of the lockdown?

Oh, let us not despair: we are promised salvation through vaccination. Nothing is less certain, however, even assuming that it will be available within a short period of time. Obviously, a frantic race is on, not so much to protect the population as to protect the jackpot that its production would represent for the laboratories. It is nonetheless questionable whether the colossal sums invested in research would not be more judiciously used to refinance public hospitals and re-equip them with personnel and material, as well as to develop effective treatments. It is well known that the billions of dollars spent on AIDS research never resulted in a vaccine, but that an effective treatment was eventually developed. If the priority had been to develop it, how many lives would have been saved? Still, a vaccine would have been Donald Trump’s salvation in the run-up to the November presidential election. Putin is also counting on a vaccine to boost his declining popularity. He would even have his children vaccinated now. We wish them a better fate than Alexei Navalny.

Regarding the treatment of Covid-19, the virulent controversy over hydroxychloroquine is very revealing. On the one hand we have a doctor from Marseille, Didier Raoult, hitherto highly respected, who ignores the strictures of randomised trials and recommends the use of a drug well known for its effectiveness against malaria. On the other hand we see a cohort of experts, almost all linked to the pharmaceutical industry. This inexpensive, long-standing drug, prescribed to millions of people around the world, is suddenly considered by them to be dangerously toxic, and its use is banned in France. Yet the results obtained with hydrochloroquine for Covid-19 are very favourable, provided that the treatment is applied from the very beginning of the disease. But nothing can be done about it, the obsession with evaluation methodologies cannot be called into question. The culmination of an impressive disinformation campaign: the prestigious magazine Lancet publishes an article demolishing Raoult on the basis of data that has been totally manipulated. Naturally, there is no profit to be made for the big pharmaceutical companies using an old drug that has passed into the public domain.

As we know, this whole epoch started in China. The alarm was sounded by a young Chinese doctor who the authorities tried in vain to silence, and who was then himself carried off by the disease. Wuhan, a city of more than ten million inhabitants, was immediately confined, and therefore forbidden to any curious person. A “wet market” was quickly identified as the source of the contamination from the pangolin – the culprit was identified. The military bacteriological research laboratory in Wuhan was therefore out of the question. According to the geneticist Alexandra Henrion Caude, the sequencing of the Covid-19 genome raises serious doubts about its natural origin. Finally, the pangolin, which was in danger of extinction, has been banned from consumption. This is good news! Finally, all is going well in the best of all possible worlds, as Voltaire’s Candide would say.

In this best of all possible worlds, the pangolin, which the Chinese are so fond of, was hunted – illegally – in Ivory Coast or Cameroon, from where it was imported into China. How did this friendly animal end up in Chinese markets? Perhaps it transited via Antwerp, or via one of the “franchised” ports in the Third World that the port of Antwerp has acquired, in Brazil in particular, as an informative survey by the magazine Médor tells us, from which we can better understand how Antwerp became the number one gateway for cocaine in Europe. See also Over Water, a great Flemish series available on Netflix.

Transl. DeepL, revised by Janet Haney

Originally published 25 August 2020: