OPINION – What We Must Do to Prevent a Global COVID-19 Depression

Flags stand outside the United Nations (UN) building in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 14, 2019. (Photo via TIME)

BY KLAUS SCHWAB AND GUIDO VANHAM APRIL 9, 2020Schwab is the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.Vanham is Professor of Virology at the University of Antwerp.

A few months in, it is still hard to grasp the scale and scope of COVID-19’s global impact. A third of the world population is under some sort of “lockdown.” Over 200 countries are affected, and the number of new cases and deaths in many places are still growing exponentially. All the while, a second crisis, in the form of an economic recession, is underway.

We all want to leave this crisis behind as soon as possible. But as eager as we are to restart social and economic life, to do so, we must give prime focus on public health. That comes with an enormous cost, but it is better than the alternative. Government and business collaborating, based on the latest scientific evidence are our best chance at preventing a hopefully short-term recession from becoming a global depression.

While governments and companies who have “bent the curve” can cautiously start initiatives to gets parts of social and economic life going again, always monitored by public health officials, companies should leave their competitive interests temporarily behind, and work together to ensures that the most effective vaccine can be determined as fast as possible, and the necessary production can start on a large scale as fast as possible. It is the only true way out of this crisis.

Let us start by acknowledging what is known medically today. While we don’t know the full facts on COVID-19 yet, it is clear will pose an exceptional risk to global public health for at least another year and possibly much longer, because of three crucial reasons. First, this novel coronavirus is extremely infectious. Second, the COVID-19 disease it causes is very severe. And third – and this is crucial – we have no “background” immunity in the population and don’t have a vaccine yet.

Consider first its infectiousness. Anyone infected with this new virus infects on average between two and three other people and nobody has immunity against this brand-new virus. Within a few weeks, this virus has infected millions (the official case count is still under 2 million, but the unofficial one is likely a least five times as high and counting). And in the next few months, COVID-19 imperils most of the global population.

Read more at: TIME

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