Trading Health for Wealth: The Effect of COVID-19 Response Stringency.

Cross M, Ng SK, Scuffham P

Int J Environ Res Public Health 17 (23) - [2020-11-24; online 2020-11-24]

International governments' COVID-19 responses must balance human and economic health. Beyond slowing viral transmission, strict lockdowns have severe economic consequences. This work investigated response stringency, quantified by the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker's Stringency Index, and examined how restrictive interventions affected infection rates and gross domestic product (GDP) in China and OECD countries. Accounting for response timing, China imposed the most stringent restrictions, while Sweden and Japan were the least stringent. Expected GDP declines range from -8% (Japan) to -15.4% (UK). While greater restrictions generally slowed viral transmission, they failed to reach statistical significance and reduced GDP ( p = 0.006). Timing was fundamental: governments who responded to the pandemic faster saw greater reductions in viral transmission (p = 0.013), but worse decreases in GDP (p = 0.044). Thus, response stringency has a greater effect on GDP than infection rates, which are instead affected by the timing of COVID-19 interventions. Attempts to mitigate economic impacts by delaying restrictions or decreasing stringency may buoy GDP in the short term but increase infection rates, the longer-term economic consequences of which are not yet fully understood. As highly restrictive interventions were successful in some but not all countries, decision-makers must consider whether their strategies are appropriate for the country on health and economic grounds.

Type: Journal article

PubMed 33255383

DOI 10.3390/ijerph17238725

Crossref 10.3390/ijerph17238725

pii: ijerph17238725

Publications 7.1.2