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Imagining 2030 Series


Living with Pandemic
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Christine Nikol works in FX trading in London and New York and has a background in politics,
journalism and management consulting.

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!Date of first infection? asks the nurse, not looking up from his electronic chart.
!May 2026 I answer, and he taps the screen. He rummages through his trolley, finds a pack of pills with
a green cover and hands it to me without saying a word: he can tell from my chart I know what to do
Ive taken AniFlu before.

!While I swallow the pills, the nurse pulls an iTrack from his hip holster and holds the device against my

shoulder. The chip under my skin blinks green a few times, sending him my data.
Its been five years since the outbreak of Vyborg Flu a new flu so serious it kills the frail in a matter of
weeks and debilitates the healthy for months. 20% of the infected die if they arent administered a
treatment. No government was able to produce enough vaccines to inoculate everyone, and the virus
keeps mutating. Eventually, they gave up on large-scale vaccination and focused on coming out with the
right cures. Now the labs are able to crank out enough of the latest AniFlu to cover most new infections:
the key is getting it to people whove been exposed in time.

!My chip flashes red: Four people says the nurse, thats a lot. The data is right. Ive been within one

meter of four people since my chip detected this latest infection: my sister, a date and a delivery man.
Everyone uses drones for deliveries, but AmazDrone messed up the delivery of a confidential work
document and my law firm had dispatched a rare human courier so Id sign a deposition in time. Limiting
human contact is a Key Health Objective at Caswell, Xia & Co: the office even uses the latest iHolo to
project a hologram of the senior partner from New York. Country quarantines were lifted last year, but
international travel for business purposes is still banned. On the bright side, CO2 emissions have never
been lower.

!The nurse puts on a new pair of gloves and asks me to open wide: he has to check that Ive swallowed the
cure and log it in iHealth. Aaaaah I groan, as he moves my tongue from right to left. Right. Good to
go he says, Remember to call your exposures, he reminds me. That might be awkward I say under
my breath: the Skype dates with Albert had been promising, but there was no chemistry when we met in
person and I was hoping to avoid him. But I know the moment my iTrack data came through to the nurse,

the RingPo was dispatched to find the four people Id exposed and make them take the AniFlu. It was
only polite to give them a heads up.

!Yes, Ill let them know I reply. The nurse ticks a box on his screen.
!The RingPo are the medical police that execute Europes Ring Prophylaxis strategy. Identify the infected,

trace who was exposed, track them down and administer the cure so the virus doesnt spread. Its what
they did when Ebola struck in 2015, but back then they had to figure out your exposures manually and
interview the sick, who could barely tell one day from the next, and then call and knock on doors to find
everyone. They tried that when Vybord began, but governments were quickly overwhelmed and peoples
memories couldnt be trusted. Tech firms tried using social media and complex algorithms to do the job,
but tracking every person-to-person contact was just too difficult. Thats when the chips came in: now any
time you come within coughing distance of another chip, its owner and the date are logged. If you get
sick, information on each person you exposed during your contagious period is given to the RingPo.

!Apple and Google developed the process together, but even though Apple gave iTrack away for free, its

trillion dollar Health & Technology division was taken over by the US government and the WHO. Its not
unprecedented: Merck was nationalized during World War I. Google somehow stayed private, with a
public-private partnership to support the RingPo.

!As I leave the clinic I start feeling drowsy: the pills work fast. I exit through the corner of the old Harvey
Nichols store thats been converted to a hospital. Theres no need or desire for physical stores anymore.
Knightsbridge is empty except for a few people waiting outside the clinic and the drones buzzing away
above. I check my nose for any bleeding, but it hasnt started yet. I know I wont sleep well for weeks.
Since Im not too drowsy to speak yet, I pull out my phone to call my exposures and decide to start with
my sister. Shell be upset because shes pregnant, which makes her a much higher risk if she gets sick.

!I'm lucky. I'm a healthy 37 year old, I'm not pregnant and I was able to freeze my eggs after they managed
to develop gene therapy that gives embryos immunity against Vyborg. It cost me 40,000GBP, but at least
my hypothetical child won't need a chip in her arm. I'd like a little girl: the EU made maternity and
paternity leaves mandatory to help the reproduction effort and women now make up a slim majority at the
head of universities and businesses. Too bad it took an epidemic to put the policy in place. But since
women like me are still scared of getting pregnant as long as the flu rages, governments decided there
cant be any other deterrents to rebuilding the population. It's hard enough to create a relationship when
human interaction is discouraged.

!Maybe when the RingPo have finished with him, I should try again with Albert.