VoxEU & CEPR Coverage of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic

Ethan Ilzetzki, Benjamin Moll, 25 November 2020

On 5 November, the UK entered its second lockdown in an attempt to contain the spread of Covid-19. This column reports on the latest CfM survey, in which the majority of the panel of assessed that lockdowns have caused limited economic damage beyond what the pandemic itself would have caused unabated, and that the economic costs of the current lockdown are limited relative to the milder measures employed this summer. Nearly a fifth of the panel believes that the UK economy is in fact better off due to lockdowns, beyond the public health benefits of these measures. About a third of respondents believes that no trade-off exists between lives and livelihoods and that health and economic outcomes in fact go hand in hand, especially when better policies are taken into account, a third believes there is a small trade-off, and the remaining third that the trade-off is larger.

Bernard Hoekman, Anirudh Shingal, Varun Eknath, Viktoriya Ereshchenko, 25 November 2020

A prominent feature of the public policy response to COVID-19 has been the active use of trade policy instruments to enable access to essential supplies. This column finds the use of export restrictions targeting medical products to be strongly positively correlated with characteristics of prevailing public procurement regimes. Membership of trade agreements encompassing public procurement disciplines is associated with actions to facilitate trade in medical products. These findings suggest that future empirical assessments of trade policy drivers during the pandemic should consider the role of national public procurement systems and deep trade agreements.

Jeroen Luyten, Roselinde Kessels, Sandy Tubeuf, 25 November 2020

With the news of promising Covid-19 vaccines on the horizon comes a new challenge. The initial supply will not be sufficient to vaccinate everyone and choices will need to made over distribution. This column presents the results of an experiment in Belgium investigating people’s preferences regarding the distribution of a scarce vaccine. There was no one single strategy that was considered best by a large majority, but three strategies were ranked first by between 20-30% of respondents: prioritising essential workers, the chronically ill, and older people. Libertarian-inspired approaches (such as highest willingness-to-pay or ‘first-come, first served’) and a strict egalitarian approach (such as a lottery) were clearly the least preferred options.

Miltos Makris, Flavio Toxvaerd, 24 November 2020

The prospect of an effective vaccine to Covid-19 in the near term makes it important to understand private and public incentives to suppress infection. This column examines how the prospect of a vaccine alters individuals’ incentives to self-protect between now and the arrival of the vaccine, and how a benevolent social planner would prefer individuals to self-protect. It finds that individuals tend to ramp up self-protection in anticipation of the vaccine, while the social planner manages the transition by introducing stricter suppression at early stages.

Alex Bryson, Lorenzo Corsini, Irene Martelli, 24 November 2020

Public spending on education in Italy has been falling for many years, limiting the hiring of new permanent teachers and thus raising the average age of teachers in the country. This column considers the effect of allocating permanent teacher contracts to older teachers on student performance in upper-secondary schools in Tuscany. The findings suggest that a higher proportion of older teachers in a school has a negative effect on student performance. The government may need to do more to recruit younger cohorts of teachers into permanent posts, preferably through periodic intakes.

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