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.

Janine Aron, John Muellbauer, 18 May 2020

Excess mortality data avoid miscounting deaths from under-reporting of Covid-19-related deaths and other health conditions left untreated. According to EuroMOMO, which tracks excess mortality for 24 European states, England had the highest peak weekly excess mortality in total, for the over-65s, and, most strikingly, for the 15-64 age group. This column argues that research is needed into such divergent patterns. It suggests that national statistical offices should publish P-scores (excess deaths divided by ‘normal’ deaths) for states and sub-regions, and permit EuroMOMO to publish P-scores as well as their less transparent Z-scores. This would aid comparability, better inform pandemic policy, and allow lessons to be drawn across heterogeneous regions and countries. 

Justin Sandefur, Arvind Subramanian, 18 May 2020

The IMF is forecasting a substantially more muted impact of the COVID crisis on GDP for developing countries compared to advanced economies. This column argues that the discrepancy cannot be explained by external vulnerabilities, which afflict developing countries more. Nor can it be explained by the domestic shock, because social distancing and lockdowns have been similar across both groups, while fiscal policy responses have been significantly weaker in developing countries. Relative optimism should not guide international policy responses.

Inga Heiland, Karen Helene Ulltveit-Moe, 17 May 2020

As almost 80% of trade is carried by sea, it is evident that disruptions to sea transport can damage trade flows and disrupt supply chains. COVID-19 containment policies have hit sea transport severely. Many key ports have imposed restrictions on vessels and crew, including prohibitions that have stopped crew changes. Satellite data for ships show that sailings to destinations with crew-change restrictions are down by almost 20% for container ships compared to previous years. More flexible regulations based on screening and discretion are needed to ensure the continuity of freight distribution in order to secure that supply chains do not get a double hit.

John Cochrane, 16 May 2020

Guglielmo Briscese, Nicola Lacetera, Mario Macis, Mirco Tonin, 16 May 2020

Many governments have enacted stringent ‘stay-at-home’ policies to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. This column reports evidence from a series of surveys of representative samples of the Italian population on their willingness to comply with the lockdown. The results indicate that people are less compliant if self-isolation measures are extended for longer than expected, which suggests that managing expectations is critical. This finding could be valuable if new waves of infections force governments to re-introduce lockdowns.

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.

Shigeru Fujita, Giuseppe Moscarini, Fabien Postel-Vinay, 15 May 2020

Current government policies addressing the COVID-19 crisis protect the hardest-hit workers and jobs. The world economy, however, is already experiencing needs for employment reallocation towards certain essential activities. This column proposes a policy framework to resolve the trade-off between protecting valuable match-specific capital and restoring the desired pace of healthy reallocation. The scheme leverages the distinct age profile of COVID-19 health risks, matching capital, and worker reallocation, by tailoring furlough subsidies, wage subsidies, and unemployment insurance to worker age.

Asger Lau Andersen, Emil Toft Hansen, Niels Johannesen, Adam Sheridan, 15 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has had drastic effects on consumer spending across the world. This column presents evidence based on bank account transaction data from Denmark showing that total card spending was reduced by 25% during the early phase of the crisis. The drop was mostly concentrated on goods and services whose supply is directly restricted by government interventions, suggesting a limited role for spillovers to non-restricted sectors through demand in the short term.

Marcus Hagedorn, Kurt Mitman, 15 May 2020

Heterogeneous-Agent New Keynesian models offer new perspectives on fiscal and monetary policy interaction in the euro area. The current question is whether ECB measures are predominantly motivated to ensure price stability (with fiscal consequences a side effect), or whether they are motivated by an overriding economic policy objective. This column presents evidence that, according to the HANK models, there is no distinct separation between fiscal and monetary policy. Fiscal policy is an important determinant of inflation at the zero lower bound, and properly designed asset purchases are an effective instrument to satisfy the price stability mandate.

Refet Gürkaynak, Deborah Lucas, 14 May 2020

The current macroeconomic policy scene in advanced economies is dominated by three interrelated challenges: rapidly meeting the unprecedented spending needs to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, while holding government debt to a sustainable level and avoiding deflation. This column argues that monetising some of the pandemic-related debt would be the best way to address all three issues simultaneously, even if it risks some future above-target inflation. It proposes a particular mechanism for debt monetisation, with the proceeds used to fund the partial replacement of lost wages through the banking system. The proposed mechanism effectively monetizes the cost of the programme, in contrast to central banks' current debt purchase programmes which, for the most part, have not yet resulted in monetisation.   

Ayça Tekin-Koru, 14 May 2020

The strict and prolonged age-specific containment measures in Turkey have both reduced infection/death rates and enabled less strict restrictions for the lower-risk groups. This column reviews Turkey’s response and examines the real-time effects of the COVID-19 crisis on production in Turkey. If finds that the targeted containment measures appear to have helped reduce a contraction in production that could have been much worse with a uniform lockdown. It also finds that the major brunt of the health crisis in terms of its human costs has been borne by the working class.

Valerie Cerra, Antonio Fatás, Sweta C. Saxena, 14 May 2020

As many countries enter deep economic downturns, many wonder about the shape and length of the recession, as well as the steepness of the recovery. Past recessions have left permanent scars on long-term growth, known as hysteresis. This column reviews the hysteresis academic literature to gain insights on the current crisis and the policies that should be put in place to minimise its long-term effects. Continued macroeconomic stimulus, where policy space exists, is needed using an array of instruments. Now is not the time to err on the side of caution when it comes to expansionary economic policies.

Chang Ma, John Rogers, Sili Zhou, 13 May 2020

Forecasting the progress and impact of COVID-19 is central to the planning of policymakers around the world. This column provides a historical perspective by examining the immediate and bounce-back effects from six post-war disease shocks. GDP growth contractions are immediate and sizeable, but vary across countries. Despite an immediate ‘bounce back’, GDP tends to remain below its pre-shock level for several years. The negative effect on GDP is felt less in countries with larger first-year responses in government spending, especially on health care, and the indirect effects on GDP growth from affected trading partners are also important.

Massimo Bordignon, Guido Tabellini, 13 May 2020

The subsidiarity principle implies that the EU should do what member countries cannot do by themselves. In the context of the current crisis, this implies issuing very long-term debt. This column argues that this could be achieved by endowing the new EU Recovery Fund with genuinely own EU sources of revenue. Providing the EU with revenue from EU own tax bases would also improve the quality of EU expenditures, and could pave the way to the creation of a euro area fiscal capacity.

Cara Pacitti, Richard Hughes, Jack Leslie, Charlie McCurdy, James Smith, Daniel Tomlinson, 12 May 2020

With experts warning that social distancing measures could remain in place for much of this year in the UK, the fiscal pressures faced by the government could well be much more severe than recent official forecasts suggest. Drawing on three scenarios for the economic impact of social distancing lasting for 3, 6 or 12 months, this column looks at the impact on the UK public finances. It suggests that borrowing will rise to historic highs in all three scenarios. This poses liquidity challenges for the government in the near term, and leaves the government more vulnerable to changes in interest rates or inflation in the medium term given far higher debt stocks.

Charles Wyplosz, Beatrice Weder di Mauro, 11 May 2020

CEPR’s new vehicle for rapidly vetting and disseminating economic research on Covid-related issues is thriving – attracting something like six papers per day with about 40% passing the rapid, up-down vetting process. From its founding, the idea was that papers issued in Covid Economics would be submitted to professional journals after revision. Leading journals in the profession – including AER, JPE, REStud, and QJE – have accepted that appearing in Covid Economics does not constitute publication but rather is viewed as a posting in a working paper series. 

Sophia Chen, Deniz Igan, Nicola Pierri, Andrea Presbitero, 11 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdowns have led to unprecedented economic costs around the world. Using high-frequency indicators, this column shows that while COVID-19 is a global shock, European countries and US states with larger outbreaks have suffered significantly larger economic losses. The impact of COVID-19 is mostly captured by changes in people’s observed mobility whereas, so far, there is no robust evidence supporting additional impact from the adoption of non-pharmaceutical interventions, especially in the US. The results indicate a crucial role for communication and trust-building.

Jamus Lim, 11 May 2020

Large fiscal expenditures, as well as more loans by households and firms, will lead to sharp increases in public and private debt in the near future. The resulting debt burdens may impact both post-lockdown economic recovery and medium-run growth prospects. This column presents evidence on the effects of the total debt burden on output dynamics. The results suggest increases in total debt to GDP have significant negative effects on growth. Helping economies recover from the dramatic COVID-19 shock will require tackling both public and private borrowing. 

Marcus Painter, Tian Qiu, 11 May 2020

Social distancing is vital to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. Leveraging smartphone geolocation data, this column examines how political beliefs impact the effectiveness of state-level social distancing orders in the US. The findings suggest that Republicans and misaligned Democrats are less likely to adhere to social distancing orders. Bipartisan support for social distancing measures thus appears to be a key factor in how quickly we can mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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