The Coronavirus — Did the Government React Properly?

The novel coronavirus has become a massive scourge to our social and economic life. (Source: CDC)

The coronavirus pandemic has caused an extremely troubling situation for governments across the world in terms of how to deal with it. The default position of all governments seems to be to close borders and mandate or encourage self-isolation. This has brought across a conundrum. In the zeal to self-isolate, what that has done is force many businesses and small businesses to incur losses, by having to shut down, either by government order or by a lack of customers. On the other end, the exorbitant consumer has become a dying breed, as people seldom go outside anymore to buy from small businesses. This has resulted in a difficult situation, where governments now have to choose between the economic health of a country and restricting the flow of coronavirus.

Let me introduce the novel coronavirus (known as COVID-19), straight out of China. The coronavirus has become the latest of a slew of viruses that have come out of China in the last couple of decades. Although the origin of the coronavirus is unknown, tests conducted heavily suggest that the virus can be traced back to the Wuhan wet markets. The unsanitary and unhealthy conditions, combined with the high concentration of poor people in the area, made the coronavirus perfect for spread. This combined with the ineffective top-down governorship, of the Chinese communist government, and their lack of free press turned a virus that’s spread could have been avoided heavily, into a global pandemic. In any case, what has happened, has happened. At this point, the global pandemic must be contained as much as possible. As of now, scientists have determined that the coronavirus will infect the population in something akin to a normal distribution curve. The point of it the graph is to show matter what precautions are taken, the coronavirus infection rate will inevitably increase at an exponential rate, to a certain maximum. Thereafter, cases will inevitably decline as more people catch it once become cured of the virus. However, the factor by which the number of cases exponentially increase, as well as the number who are infected can be controlled. In a graphical sense, this is called flattening the curve. The reason why flattening the curve is so important is because the lower the curve (and therefore, the lower the amount of concurrent infected cases), the more of an ability the healthcare system has a chance to deal with the pandemic.

The curve that represents the coronavirus. The large curve is the one that will happen without any precautionary measures against the coronavirus. We want to reach the lower curve. (Source: CDC)

Ultimately, the people who are going to be most affected by the coronavirus and need the most care from the hospitals, are the elderly. Adolescents and adults have the ability to fight off the respiratory issues caused by the coronavirus, but the elderly and patients with compromised immune systems do not have that ability. They are the most at risk from dying, and the data backs this up. As of now, Italy has been hit by over 7500 deaths. But, of those deaths, the average age of the victims has been 79.5, and 99% of the deaths total, have had pre-existing illnesses already compromising the victims. The coronavirus is not dangerous to the regular person, but to the elderly, and the most vulnerable, it is deadly.

The solution that world governments have touted ad nauseum has been to practice self-isolation, to make sure that the coronavirus does not spread from someone who has a healthy immune system, to someone who does not. Now, there is an immediate problem with this. If you tell your populous to stay home, then who runs the businesses? Without businesses, the two biggest side effects are unemployment and a major hit to the economy. When businesses do not get an intake of customers and are told to shut down to self-isolate, they inevitably lay off their employees, and face massive losses to their profits. This means that productivity is down, the economy is dropping like a dead mule, and the person who really need the paycheck to feed their family can no longer do so. Self-isolation only works insofar as it does not create a worse world than a one that has people infected by the coronavirus. Think about it like this. While the economy may seem like this ungraspable concept, in truth, the economy is as organic as we are. The economy is the reason that we can buy things at affordable prices, that we can have a reasonable trust in our currency, and that we can live our lives the way we want to at a high standard of living. If the economy crashes, like it is now, people’s lives come crashing down as well. Is it really worth shutting down the entire economy to self-isolate? Especially, when one considers that the coronavirus is simply not lethal to younger patients with better immune systems. There are ways to preserve the economy, while also combating the coronavirus. Denmark is one of the few countries to have considered the alternative to total self-isolation and economic shutdown. Instead of self-isolating everyone, simply isolate the elderly and the people with compromised immune systems. Let the regular folk simply get the virus and get over it like a seasonal flu. After all, the coronavirus simply does not severely affect those with good health. To compound, reinfection is not significantly high for the coronavirus and it does not mutate significantly either. Denmark has now gone down the route of most other countries in self-isolation, but their initial plan had merit to it.

The overall economic impact of this kind of a pandemic will be massive, given that governments are going down the route of self-isolation. There is a good chance that the self-isolation measures that governments have taken in quarter two will result in a recession, and in a worst-case scenario, rivalling the one in 2008. It will likely not be until late quarter three and into quarter four that the economy will start to see a global recovery, but not to the global GDP before this pandemic. There will however be greater long-term consequences, especially for China. Coronavirus is not the only dangerous and highly infective disease to come out of China in this decade. Seeing as how China has become a hub for these kinds of diseases, it is likely that fewer countries will be willing to involve China in their supply-chains for products. Because as is, it seems that every time China gets a new virus, it has the potential to ruin the world economy because most countries use China to create products. Likely, this will lead to a higher diversification for countries in terms of where they create and get products, leading to adverse economic effects for China. It is likely that countries will want retribution from China. It is of course because China kept their information about the coronavirus hidden for so long and did not let other countries help them in dealing with it, that the coronavirus turned into the massive pandemic that it is now. The retribution will probably best come in the form of economic sanctions and charges against China. Globally though, the overall long-term trend will be that people will not be a lot more open to online buying of goods. This is given that online purchasing has now become at the top of people’s minds especially as businesses are closing. This is of course, mostly speculative. But given how the world has essentially shut down their economy, these are all effects that are imaginable.

Now, if it seems that this article is simply bashing the moves of the government, it is not. Instead, the purpose of this article is to make sure that everyone stays vigilant over the government’s actions. It is better to overreact, than not react enough to the ongoing global pandemic. Scientists are, of course, suggesting the flattening the curve is the best way to combat this issue. As such, it is still best to trust them on this one. But we must always be careful in who we give authority to, and sometimes, it is worth considering using logic and our own thinking to get through issues like the coronavirus.

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Aditya Khan

Aditya Khan

First year university student. Sometimes likes to write stuff.