Ohrnberger J, Segal AB, Forchini G, Miraldo M, Skarp J, Nedjati-Gilani G, Laydon DJ, Ghani A, Ferguson NM, Hauck K
Eur J Public Health 31 (5) 1009-1015 [2021-10-26; online 2021-08-07]
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, governments across the globe have imposed strict social distancing measures. Public compliance to such measures is essential for their success, yet the economic consequences of compliance are unknown. This is the first study to analyze the effects of good compliance compared with poor compliance to a COVID-19 suppression strategy (i.e. lockdown) on work productivity. We estimate the differences in work productivity comparing a scenario of good compliance with one of poor compliance to the UK government COVID-19 suppression strategy. We use projections of the impact of the UK suppression strategy on mortality and morbidity from an individual-based epidemiological model combined with an economic model representative of the labour force in Wales and England. We find that productivity effects of good compliance significantly exceed those of poor compliance and increase with the duration of the lockdown. After 3 months of the lockdown, work productivity in good compliance is £398.58 million higher compared with that of poor compliance; 75% of the differences is explained by productivity effects due to morbidity and non-health reasons and 25% attributed to avoided losses due to pre-mature mortality. Good compliance to social distancing measures exceeds positive economic effects, in addition to health benefits. This is an important finding for current economic and health policy. It highlights the importance to set clear guidelines for the public, to build trust and support for the rules and if necessary, to enforce good compliance to social distancing measures.