An Analysis of the Covid-19 Response: Weighing up the Threat From the Virus, and the Threat From the Reaction
Sunday March 22, 2020
Would you consider the shutting down of an entire national economy for a disease such as the Black Death, which between 1347-1351 killed an estimated 60 percent of the population in the areas where it spread, to be a proportionate response? What about for a virus which carries — at the very most (see below) — a mortality rate of 1.4 percent for those who contract it?
Such decisions should be weighed in the balances. In the left-hand side, there is the number of people who could die from the illness, the burden this will place on the health care system and other vital services, and the consequent misery and devastation this will cause to individuals, to families, to businesses, and to society at large. In the right-hand side, there is the possibility of economic collapse, with the mass job losses, destruction of businesses, and extreme poverty this would bring for many.
For something like the Black Death, it is something of a no-brainer. If you don’t shut down everything very quickly, not only will people start dropping dead like flies, but the economy you are attempting to save will soon have nobody to work in it. If you were foolish enough to try to keep your economy running during such a situation, you’d end up with the worst of both worlds: almost no people and almost no economy.