Hiroyasu Inoue, Yohsuke Murase, Yasuyuki Todo, 25 March 2021

The economic benefit from lifting lockdowns may depend significantly on the lockdown strategies of other regions and countries due to supply chain links. This column analyses the importance of supply chain links in this context by conducting a simulation analysis applying rich firm-level data from Japan to an agent-based model of production. It finds that the production of two regions can attain greater recovery by lifting their lockdowns together when they are closely linked through supply chains in either direction. These results point to the need for policy coordination among regions when regional governments impose or lift lockdowns.

Francesca Caselli, Francesco Grigoli, Pedro Rente Lourenço, Damiano Sandri, Antonio Spilimbergo, 15 January 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic is having very unequal effects across people. Using unique aggregated and anonymised mobility indicators provided by Vodafone for Italy, Portugal, and Spain, this column shows that lockdowns have had a larger impact on the mobility of women and younger cohorts. Younger people also experienced a sharper drop in mobility in response to rising COVID-19 infections. The findings warn about a possible widening of gender and inter-generational inequality and provide important inputs for the formulation of targeted policies.  

Klaus Prettner, Simiao Chen, Michael Kuhn, David Bloom, 04 January 2021

Proponents of the ‘herd immunity’ approach to COVID-19 argue for a largely uncontrolled outbreak in the low-risk population, while protecting the vulnerable, to achieve natural immunisation at minimal economic cost. In contrast, others favour fighting COVID-19 with all possible means, including lockdowns. This column describes simple, effective, and low-cost policy measures designed to fight the spread of COVID-19 that should be amenable to both camps. 

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.

Daniel Gros, 12 November 2020

In the autumn of 2020, many European governments are imposing ‘lockdowns light’, which usually contain limitations on the operations of restaurants, bars, and some shops considered non-essential.  This column argues that pandemic control cannot be limited to lockdowns. Activities like providing restaurant meals or retailing increase the risk of infection and thus involve a large difference between private and social cost.  The efficient solution to this problem would be incentives for shop and restaurant closures, rather than mandated lockdowns.

Roberto Galbiati, Emeric Henry, Nicolas Jacquemet, Max Lobeck, 24 October 2020

In order to promote social distancing to contain the spread of Covid-19, governments introduced strict regulations. This column uses interviews from before the 23 March announcement of a nationwide UK lockdown and after the announcement to show that the introduction of the new laws affected the perception of social norms regarding the various containment measures – that is, what people thought the prevalent norms were. This appears to have been the result of fewer misperceptions about the social norms after the introduction of the laws, rather than actual changes in the social norms. 

Martin Bodenstein, Giancarlo Corsetti, Luca Guerrieri, 12 June 2020

Drastic public health measures such as social distancing or lockdowns can reduce the loss of human life by keeping the number of infected individuals from exceeding the capacity of the health care system, but they are often criticised because of the social and the economic cost they entail. This column shows that the high peak of an infection not mitigated by social distancing may cause very large upfront economic costs in terms of output, consumption and investment that are amplified by supply disruptions as workers in essential industries become ill. Social distancing measures can reduce these costs, especially if skewed towards non-essential industries and occupations with tasks that can be performed from home, helping to smooth the surge in infections among workers in the essential sector.

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.

Zachary Barnett-Howell, Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak, 07 May 2020

Governments around the world have implemented social distancing and lockdown policies designed to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus by restricting the movement and everyday activity of billions of people. This column uses the Imperial College London COVID-19 Response Team’s epidemiological model to estimate the benefit from a set of social distancing and suppression policies in different countries. A younger population, less susceptible to the disease and less willing to exchange economic wellbeing for risk reduction, means that lockdown measures are likely to be less valuable in poorer countries. 


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