Health economics

Yothin Jinjarak, Rashad Ahmed, Sameer Nair-Desai, Weining Xin, Joshua Aizenman, 20 May 2020

Remobilising workers without risking a COVID-19-related medical overload will require effective modelling to guide public policy. Applying multiple techniques, this column studies the factors engendering the empirical shape of mortality curves from the onset of the pandemic to local peaks, with a focus on how policy intensity interacted with structural variables. Accounting for global diffusion patterns, it finds that more stringent policies were associated with significantly lower mortality growth rates, which took longer to peak in countries considered more democratically free and those further from the equator. 

Gabriele Ciminelli, Sílvia Garcia-Mandicó, 19 May 2020

As many countries around the world are finally past the first peak of the pandemic, it is time to assess what could be done better in case of a second wave. This column analyses the management of COVID-19 in Italy using newly available death registry data covering almost all Italian municipalities. The findings suggest that the closure of non-essential services reduced mortality, while shutting down factories did not. Additionally, within the area of the epidemic epicentre, mortality was up to 50% higher in municipalities far from an ICU, a sign that congestion of the emergency care system may have prevented critical patients from being treated on time.

Jean-Philippe Platteau, Vincenzo Verardi, 16 May 2020

One puzzle that arises in connection with the spread of Covid-19 is why there is such large variation in infection and death rates both across as well as within countries. This column argues that differences in the way people, and in particular different age groups, interact can explain part of this variation. Simulations show that the measures Belgium would need to take when re-opening its economy would be more moderate if it had the same interaction patterns as Germany, and more strict if it had Italy’s interaction patterns. A key lesson is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution that could be applied to all countries, or even to all regions within a country.

Tiziana Assenza, Fabrice Collard, Martial Dupaigne, Patrick Feve, Christian Hellwig, Sumudu Kankanamge, Nicolas Werquin, 15 May 2020

How should governments balance controlling the COVID-19 pandemic with limiting its economic costs? This column argues that health policy and economic policy objectives in pandemic control are not that far apart, and that the epidemiological strategies adopted by many countries – aptly described as a ‘hammer and dance’ – are also based on sound economic principles. By paying close attention to behavioural responses and externalities, the authors offer concrete prescriptions for lockdown and recovery policies.

William Maloney, Temel Taskin, 15 May 2020

Social distancing is critical to reducing the propagation of COVID-19. This column argues that in developed countries, mandatory policies matter less than voluntary demobilisation in reducing mobility and enabling social distancing.  An analysis using Google mobility data reveals significant declines in restaurant reservations in the US and movie theatre revenues in Sweden before the imposition of government non-pharmaceutical interventions. While this behaviour will help reduce mobility and the spread of the virus, it may also slow the economic recovery that follows. 

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