Mitigating risks and increasing resilience towards infectious diseases

15 May 2020
Knowledge Base

Past events in history have shown that another pandemic may come about some time in the near future. However, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the risks as stated by a newspaper by the Institute of Economic Affairs. As the human population continues to increase, so too will viruses and diseases. Today, there are quite a few outbreaks that have remained and settled permanently among humans, though they have not quite reached the extent of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, when comparing Covid-19 to other major viruses and diseases that have spread, it is relatively moderate. Adding on to a growing population, economic integration, long supply chains, traveling and a change in how health care systems are operated and structured have all made the impact of an infectious disease significantly greater compared to 50-60 years ago.

For these aforementioned reasons, governments have been forced to take more drastic measures that will be sure to have immediate long-term effects. Regarding the Covid-19 virus, history has indicated that it will linger for up to two years that will recur in a series of waves, with the second wave said to be the largest and most severe in damage. Not only will it have a lasting and devastating impact, it will likely also lead to a sharp decline in GDP, accelerate the trends of working from home and online shopping, bring about a debt crisis and cause a general fall back from globalisation.

If effective measures are not taken to address and mitigate such risks, then other outbreaks will follow in the near future. A recent report titled Going Viral: The History and Economics of Pandemics from Dr. Stephen Davies who is the Head of Education at the Institute of Economic Affairs, delves into the history of pandemics and Covid-19. The report finds that although Covid-19 is moderate compared to the Bubonic Plague or Justinian’s Plague, it does have quite a few dire attributes:

  • It is a highly contagious disease
  • It possesses a long incubation period
  • It has a fatality rate that lies between 0.3 and 1 percent so far as research shows; and
  • It is a novel virus, meaning that it has a very low natural immunity in humans to the disease.

The reason as to why it may last up to two years is either due to the time it takes to find a vaccine to the virus or for the human population to develop herd immunity. Furthermore, civil society and the global economy have altered in ways that increase the effects felt of a pandemic. For example, traveling makes it easier for diseases to spread from person to person, which in turn also makes it difficult to keep track of the disease as it grows and spreads. The report on the history and economics of pandemics highlights various effects that have and will take place resulting from Covid-19, which are:

  • A steep decline in GDP in the two central quarters of 2020, a scale which can be comparable to the effects of the Great Depression
  • The creativity and the adaptiveness of a market economy will take precedence, which will lead to the acceleration and intensification of already existing trends, such as working from home and shopping online
  • This highly contagious disease will likely cause a large debt crisis
  • Higher inflation rates, which could be another possible effect, could result from the liquidity created by governments primarily being about preserving the supply side. However, once the controls have been eased, the demand that has been built up for certain goods and services could be released, which could result in an increase in inflation if the supply takes some time to meet the demand.
  • Lastly, another effect of the Covid-19 pandemic is a pull back from globalisation and economic integration. This virus has already inflicted massive stresses on economic and health care systems around the world. Some economies are fragile and cannot handle a shock of this nature.

The report also addresses certain steps that can be taken to reduce future risks. Firstly, the world needs to come to terms with the fact that modern intensive farming provides the near perfect breeding grounds for pathogens to develop and spread. It is important to note that future pandemics will arise and the world needs to become better equipped and prepared to confront them. Significant work should also be made with regards to how diagnostic tests and vaccines are developed and produced, eliminating unnecessary existing regulations that cost time to run tests and develop a safe vaccine.

More research should also be catered to addressing the alternatives to antibiotics used as a means for treating bacterial infections. Healthcare systems should also be restructured and reorganised so that they are less vulnerable and better equipped to handle severe pandemics. Finally, people should also consider a fine balance between working from the office and from home as well as to how the elderly are being cared and treated for.

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