As we eagerly observe the global fight against an unprecedented pandemic due to the Covid-19, this is the perfect time to learn from the experiences of other countries.
It will prepare Bangladesh for managing this uncertain time, along with getting ourselves ready for a post-Covid-19 economic rebound.
For policymakers, Covid-19 offers novel challenges from three fronts – effectiveness in flattening the infection curve, effectiveness in treating the infected ones and preparing the nation for a post Covid-19 economic rebound.
As we gauge the winners and losers in this battle, we now have substantial data of the infections and their treatment status from sources like Worldometer (a reference website that provides counters and real-time statistics for diverse topics) to make a judgement on the effectiveness in the first two fronts.
On the contrary, who will do better in economic front is yet to be seen.
In this article, I will try to offer a scoresheet of winners and losers in beating the first wave of Covid-19, possible lessons learned and endeavour to provide some policy suggestions to prepare ourselves for a sustainable post-Covid-19 economic rebound.
Flattening of the infection curve: The curve, winners and losers
Around the world, pandemic forecasters are working frantically to predict how Covid-19 will play out. The spread of coronavirus follows an epidemiological model.
The perfect projection of this virus-spreading model depends on accurate data of two major variables – its generation time (the time between when one person becomes infected and when they infect someone else) and its reproduction number (the average number of people an infected person goes on to infect).
Based on real-time data on these two variables, countries can adopt two lockdown scenarios – no-intervention and with intervention. The severity of the pandemic depending on restricting measures could look like the above infographic.
As different countries adopt varying degrees of lockdown measures, some of them have performed better than the others in their effort to beat the spread of infection by seeing off the first wave.
Given time series data on this first wave, a possible scoresheet for countries in reaching the end tail of the infection curve could look like the following.
Australia, Austria, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Greece, Jordan, Lebanon, Luxemburg, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Belgium, Costa Rica, Germany, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Turkey.
Need to improve
Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, UAE, Russia, UK and the US.
In this journey of flattening the curve, while the richest economy of the world is surprisingly failing its citizens, a comparably poorer country like Vietnam has outsmarted many others in managing the spread of this infection. If we analyse their policies, few salient lessons emerge.
Some of the actors that helped the winners to effectively reach the end tail of the curve are – acting quickly in restricting movements, isolating infected ones away from home, implementation of good governance, undertaking massive testing regime, ensuring face musk for everyone, continuing to practice social distancing, and being patient in reopening to avoid second wave.
Treating infected ones: Report card of healthcare infrastructure
A country's preparedness to deal with a pandemic is dependent of its health infrastructure. I analyse effectiveness of a health system through a simple index – the death to infected ratio. I calculated this ratio based on May 19 data and grouped them in three clusters.
Good performers with less than 5 percent death among the infected ones
Australia, Austria, Chile, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand and UAE.
Average performers with 5 to 10% death to infection ratio
Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Niger, Romania, Syria, USA and Zimbabwe.
Poor performers with more than 10% death to infection ratio
Belgium, France, Guyana, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, UK, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
With regards to this indicator, while some of the developed countries like Italy and UK are lagging poorly, other developed counterparts like Germany, UAE and Singapore are doing better in providing healthcare.
A quick visit to health care facilities in these countries may provide us an idea about the key factors to be winners in this health care front – access to universal healthcare through public system, less economic and social inequality, strong existing health care infrastructure, availability of safety facilities for essential workers, and lower proportion of aging population.
Needless to say, while the US spends higher proportion of its national budget on healthcare sector than many other countries (twice as much as Germany), its health sector is performing at substandard level.
Hence, it is not the amount of money we spend; it is about government's prudent policy and goodwill for greater social welfare through Medicare like public healthcare system.
Post Covid-19 economic rebound
With some good fortune, sooner or later we will reach the other side of this health crisis. We need to keep our humane, organisational and infrastructure facilities running and prepare for a strong economic rebound once this crisis is over.
To be able to tap into a changed global supply chain and revamped demand scenarios we need to take the following stimulus efforts – stimulus aimed at the poor and new poor by targeting them efficiently through innovative mechanisms using digital and mobile technologies.
Stimulus targeted to keep small and medium industries running to support bigger industries while rebounding. Restructuring industries to quickly adopt to changing post COVID global demand to grasp new opportunities like the ones linked to IT, medicine etc.
Other needed stimulus efforts are – linking quickly to post COVID supply chain, and localising production and consumption through innovative ways like establishing clean energy micro grids to serve local communities.
The author is a senior lecturer of the Department of Economics at the Faculty of Business in Deakin University, Australia. He also serves as the deputy director of the Centre for Energy, the Environment and Natural Disaster (CEEND).