May 29, 2024

In this article for Asia Global Institute, Bryane Michael, senior fellow at the Asian Institute of International Financial Law and economic advisor to various countries, says that the best way to minimize the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic is to utilize a localized risk-based approach instead of universal and indiscriminate policies.

The article, published last July 30, 2020 states that by imposing national lockdowns, countries have actually ignored law and policy advice developed since the 1960s on the effective strategies for dealing with pandemics and associated social risks. Not only that, but governments also ignored the 1997 plans and measures developed by the World Health Organization in consultation with health authorities in member states. Risk-profiling, coupled with effective data management, would have been a better strategy, Michael says. The one-size-fits-all approach was negligent as it does not consider the asymmetric costs policies may have on different sectors of society (for example, middle to high income households may find no trouble with shelter-in-place policies, while the poor living in shanties may find the policy unbearable).

Editor’s Note: We may remember that in April, Nicanor already proposed to the Precision Quarantine and Immunity approach [see the Briefing Paper for details]. Though the government has gradually lifted community quarantines in low-risk areas in the country, the reality is that there is no real understanding of the risks associated with COVID-19. Even with the current evidences pointing to the reality that it is now safe to lift the lockdown, the mainstream narrative is still that the country is reopening for the economy.

The Philippine government (and also a number of countries around the world) continues to operate on the basis of an earlier knowledge that the virus spreads indiscriminately, and that it is deadly, despite the evidences showing otherwise [see French study shows children don’t spread the coronavirus, WHO: Asymptomatics aren’t driving the spread of the coronavirus, Study shows low infectivity of some asymptomatic SARS-COV-2 carriers, and More data gathered, more proof that early fatality estimates were massively exaggerated]. It has failed to realize that the control of the spread of the virus should not be the priority, instead, it should be the protection of the most vulnerable, and avoidance of severe health outcomes which may be caused by the virus. Severe disease and deaths should be the key indicators, not the number of cases [see No Need To Panic Over Infection Numbers: Deaths Continue To Decrease and Sweden’s COVID-19 experience from the eyes of a Swedish doctor to understand this approach better. Also it is important to note that the burden of disease of COVID-19 is exacerbated by other illnesses, see CDC finds patients with underlying conditions 12 times more likely to die of COVID-19, 95% of deaths in UK have pre-existing condition, and 99% of coronavirus deaths in Italy had other illnesses].

Governments that continue to institute indiscriminate lockdowns due to rising infection cases miss the point. They are wasting precious resources that could have been used to fund social safety nets – programs that can be used to shelter citizens from the negative impact of one-size-fits-all solutions. We are squandering the future for nothing – that is the ultimate tragedy of this pandemic.

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