COVID-19 Zero has paid off more than living with it

Two strategies in the face of the pandemic to balance: Countries that sought to eliminate COVID-19 entirely from their midst, as did New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Iceland or Korea in the south, did better a year later in terms of health and economics. They also violated the freedoms of their citizens to a lesser extent than the likes of Canada, who instead chose to “live with it” by introducing permanent containment and mitigation measures.

This is evidenced by a study conducted by European economists and researchers in more than 35 countries around the world to measure the socio-economic impact of the current health crisis. The results of their work have just been published in a scientific journal. Lancet

In their view, this approach to eradicating the virus would also benefit from being a source of inspiration for other countries to accelerate the return to normality; The vaccinations currently carried out all over the world alone are not enough to keep everyone safe.

“Countries that choose to live with this virus can pose a threat to other countries, especially those with limited access to COVID-19 vaccines,” the authors of this brief study write, referring to a virus whose effects are being counteracted by vaccination. but this does not completely prevent its circulation.

“Uncertainty about the timing, duration and extent of the blockage will also continue to hold back their economic growth,” they add. And during this time, the countries that have chosen to liquidate will return to a standard of living close to normal. They can restart their economies, allow travel between green spaces, and support other countries in their vaccination campaigns. “

Keep death at bay

The math of a pandemic has everything to spur a change in strategy in countries that have opted for cohabitation with the coronavirus. In terms of human toll, the five countries where containment was rapid at the start of the pandemic experienced 25 times lower mortality than other OECD countries that chose Live With It, they estimate.

Figures? South Korea and Australia have 35 deaths per million. The death toll is 5.28 per million in New Zealand and 81 per million in Iceland. By comparison, Canada has a death rate of 651.3 per million inhabitants, or 1,292.9 deaths per million in Quebec alone, or just 470 less than the United States, which has recorded 1,764 deaths per million since the beginning of the crisis. The UK was also hit hard, with 1,920 deaths per million.

“The differences are significant, but they are not surprising,” said economist Bary Pradelsky, co-author of this study, who works at the National Center for Scientific Research in France and teaches quantitative economics at the University of Oxford in the UK. Yes, it is necessary to take into account the insular or almost insular nature of the countries that have managed to eliminate the virus. But it’s not only that. In these countries, the response was swift and science-based, while in other countries, crisis management was largely political and focused on following public opinion in the short term. “

In his view, the lack of clear targets to contain the spread of the virus, inconsistent and inconsistent mitigation measures, and electoral problems in some of these countries are largely responsible for these differences.

Stretch out in time

The difference is also measured in individual freedoms with restrictions, which are admittedly stronger in the first ten weeks of the pandemic in countries that sought to eradicate the virus, but which were subsequently quickly weakened. “At the end of 2020, the incarceration index was twice as high in countries that chose to live with the virus,” said Mr Pradelski. Their later and less vigorous measures forced them to accept restrictions for a longer time and to a greater extent to infringe on freedoms. “

This index is based on the measurement of several parameters, including the closure of shops, cultural spaces, travel bans, gatherings, curfews, etc.

Economically, the five countries targeting the elimination of the virus have regained their GDP growth equivalent to the period before the pandemic in early 2021. Development is still negative for 32 OECD countries, including Canada, which took a different path, the study said.

According to the authors of this study, the identification of these differences must be taken into account in the current debate about the continuation of things, and this, while several epidemiologists believe that vaccination cannot provide a return to normalcy alone. “The uneven deployment of campaigns around the world, time-limited vaccine immunity and the emergence of vaccine varieties make the pandemic strategy risky,” Pradelski said. As with smallpox, he said, public health campaigns need to be continued to avoid new waves, ”campaigns that can be inspired by the approaches that have been the most profitable so far.

“The implications of various government responses to COVID-19 will be long-term and will continue beyond the end of the pandemic,” the study authors write. The first economic and political successes achieved by countries seeking to eradicate the virus are likely to bear fruit in the long term, ”they conclude.

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