I learned today that there is a group of economists around who question the “cost” of the suppression method. How will we (as a nation) pay back the massive debt the government is currently incurring by trying to keep the economy afloat while having so much of the country shut down?
It’s a fair question. And I can’t claim to know the answer. Only, don’t you think that part of the reason the government is incurring this debt is to keep the economy generally healthier so that when we can all return to work, we’re all in a better position to do so… thereby being able to recoup the losses more quickly?
There are other costs they talk about too. The cost of the gap in consistent education. The cost of having people stuck in dysfunctional homes all day every day. The cost of the break in international trade relations.
Okay. So those are all fair questions too. But say we didn’t do anything. Say we just all went “COVID19, bring it on!” and did no isolating, and no curve flattening. Let’s use Sweden as an example… their government has politely suggest they observe social distancing but has not enforced it or shut down any schools or businesses. The figures today show that Sweden has 22,000 cases and 2769 deaths. Australia has 68,000 cases and 96 fatalities. We are comparing a rate of 274 deaths per million of population with a rate of 4 deaths per million of population. Perhaps the difference is not as big as I expected, given the chaotic state of things in New York and parts of Europe and the UK. But the different is definitely significant, right?
And we have to ask WHY hasn’t Sweden fallen in a heap like Italy, Spain, Belgium and even the UK? According to some, it’s all to do with culture. In Sweden the normal way to greet and interact involves less person-to-person contact. Swedish people naturally social distance more effectively than some other European nations. If that’s true, where does Australia fit on that spectrum? What would our natural “R value” be if we were left to ourselves? That’s an unknown quantity. So would we lose 274 people per million? Or would we lose more?
Australia’s current population is approximately 25.5 million.
At 274 deaths per million (over say 3 months like Sweden’s February to May) – that would be 6987 deaths. But we have to remember that 6987 deaths represents a lot more than that being seriously ill and requiring ICU level care. Australia has 2000 ICU beds spread across all its states and territories. Presumably the epicentres would be in the biggest cities where people live and work closer together. At what point do we lose control of that number and end up with refrigeration trucks being used as temporary morgues? And what is the cost of the loss of those trucks for normal business? And what is the cost of the land being used for the mass graves? And what is the cost of the grief? And what is the cost of factories being infected and shut down (as a meat works had to last week in Victoria) thereby effecting food production and distribution?
So it’s not that I don’t understand what these economists are arguing. I just find it weird that they separate it into two categories – ECONOMY vs FATALITIES. They are not mutually exclusive. You can’t separate humans from economy. Just like you can’t separate the economy from the environment in which it exists. They are ALL related. They are ALL dependent on each other.
You can’t weigh them on a scale as separate entities. I just don’t see how it’s possible. That’s what I don’t get.