The public debate on strategies to tackle Covid-19 often unhelpfully positions health and economic considerations in a diametric fashion – as trade-offs. In fact, economic policy has health consequences. And health policy has economic consequences. The two need to be seen as parts of a coherent whole.
In the case of South Africa, the country currently faces three interrelated problems. These are the public health threat from the Covid-19 pandemic, the economic and health effects of the lockdown, and a range of intractable economic problems not directly due to the current pandemic. These include high unemployment, low economic growth and falling per capita income.
Any potentially viable response to Covid-19 needs to address all three aspects in concert. This is particularly important as the country plans for the next stage of its response after the lockdown. Focusing only on the health challenges and not paying attention to the economic issues will result in significantly higher economic costs, and will also undermine the health imperatives.
Our view is that a protracted lockdown won’t necessarily have the effect of ridding the country of the virus, but it will result in unacceptably high health and economic consequences…..more