Following the Great Lockdown in 2020, it is important to take stock of lessons learned. How effective have different containment measures been in slowing the spread of Covid-19? Have containment measures been costly in terms of economic growth, fiscal balances, and accumulated debt? This paper finds that countries with previous SARS experience acted fast and "smart", and were able to contain the virus by relying mainly on public health measures ─ testing, contact tracing, and public information campaigns ─ rather than stay-at-home requirements. Using past coronavirus outbreaks as an instrumental variable, we show that countries with past experience were able to contain the virus in a smart way, reducing transmission and deaths while also experiencing higher economic growth in 2020.
Ms. Emilia M Jurzyk, Medha Madhu Nair, Nathalie Pouokam, Tahsin Saadi Sedik, Anthony Tan, and Mrs. Irina Yakadina
The COVID-19 pandemic risks exacerbating inequality in Asia. High frequency labor surveys show that the pandemic is having particularly adverse effects on younger workers, women and people that are more vulnerable. Pandemics have been shown to increase inequalities. As a result, income inequality, which was already high and rising in Asia before the pandemic, is likely to rise further over the medium term, unless policies succeed in breaking this historical pattern. Many Asian governments have implemented significant fiscal policy measures to mitigate the pandemic’s effect on the most vulnerable, with the impact depending on the initial coverage of safety nets, fiscal space, and degree of informality and digitalization. The paper includes model-based analysis which shows that policies targeted to where needs are greatest are effective in mitigating adverse distributional consequences and underpinning overall economic activity and virus containment.
Non-deliverable forward (NDF) markets in many Asian emerging market currencies are large, rapidly growing, and often exceed onshore markets in transaction volume. NDFs tend to price significant depreciation during market stress episodes including COVID-19. Spillovers from NDFs to onshore markets are a policymaker concern. Our analysis shows that influences tend to run both ways after controlling for differences in timezones between markets. For the COVID-19 pandemic there is some evidence of NDFs leading onshore markets for a few currencies. Policy approaches to NDFs vary widely across Asia from close integration with onshore markets to severe restrictions on NDF trading.
A universal testing and isolation policy is the most viable way to vanquish a pandemic. Its implementation requires: (i) an epidemiological rather than clinical approach to testing, sacrificing accuracy for scalability, convenience and speed; and (ii) state intervention to ramp up production, similar to True Industrial Policy (TIP), on a global level to achieve a scale and speed the market alone would fail to provide. We sketch a strategy to tackle market failures and implement smart testing, especially in densely populated areas. The estimated cost of testing is dwarfed by its return, mitigating the economic fallout of the pandemic.