As weeks of social isolation prove to be effective in curbing COVID-19, governments worldwide are trying to absorb economic shockwaves caused by the pandemic and mulling over plans to reopen their economy, while experts urge precautions and warn against a resurgence of the virus due to recklessness.
As stringent preventive measures have reduced the spread of COVID-19 in various countries and regions, governments could choose to continue the restrictions or reopen the economy with a serious reality check.
Some of U.S. President Donald Trump’s top economic advisers have emphasized the importance for states to get more businesses and offices back to normal, given that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the loss of 20.5 million jobs in the country in April alone.
“If we do this carefully, working with the governors, I don’t think there’s a considerable risk,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Fox News Sunday. “Matter of fact, I think there’s a considerable risk of not reopening. You’re talking about what would be permanent economic damage to the American public.”
As the coronavirus pandemic has brought the worst economic shock since the Great Depression, the European Commission predicted on May 6 that the European Union will contract 7.4 percent this year. Following weeks of COVID-19 curbs, European countries, including France, Germany and Spain, are also lifting lockdowns step by step.
Both in France and Spain, restrictions are being lifted by regions depending on how seriously affected they are, with schools and shops in some parts allowed to resume work. Germany is also continuing to ease movement restrictions and get more children return to classrooms.
In contrast, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned on Saturday that if provinces move quickly to reopen their economies, a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic would send Canada “back into confinement this summer.”
Canada was “not in the recovery phase yet,” he pointed out in a daily briefing, adding that “we are still in the emergency phase … The vast majority of Canadians continue to need to be very careful.”
CONTROVERSY OVER REOPENING
Whether to reopen economies now has aroused a bitter controversy amid doctors and economists.
Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday that the nation has not had the ongoing coronavirus outbreak under “total control” yet, warning that states could face serious consequences if they open up prematurely.
“My concern is that if some areas, city, states or what have you, jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently … we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks,” Fauci cautioned during a teleconference hearing on the White House’s response to the coronavirus.
Also attending the hearing remotely, Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said “rapid, extensive and widely available, timely testing is essential to reopening America.”
Meanwhile, Scott Atlas, former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University, has called for an end to lockdowns in favor of a targeted approach to getting the United States back on its feet.
“We know children and young adults in good health have almost no risk of any serious illness from COVID-19, so logic means opening most schools,” Atlas wrote in the New York Post. “With sensible precautions and sanitization standards, most workplaces and businesses should reopen.”
As some economists have also appealed for lifting or extending lockdowns, former Chief Economist to the U.S. Secretary of Labor Heidi Shierholz suggested “the question of when and how to reopen the economy should not be up to economists (like me), but to epidemiologists and public officials,” in an opinion article published by the Guardian. Enditem