This Country Fought Ebola. It May Beat Another Disease.

Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak

Niccoló F. Meriggi, an economist at the International Growth Center in Sierra Leone, and Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak (@mushfiq_econ), a professor of economics at Yale University and the founder of the Yale Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale, wrote the following article on how to combat Covid-19 in a developing economy that appeared in the New York Times on June 16:

The coronavirus has struck the world’s most powerful economies first, leading countries in Europe, North America and East Asia to carryout an array of strategies to help control its spread. But as the virus picks up speed across the global south, those policies may not be applicable there. Low- and middle-income countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia and Nigeria should not blindly follow strategies that are sensible for richer nations.

Europe, the United States and Canada can offset the economic losses caused by social-distancing policies with stimulus payments to businesses and individuals. China can mobilize the power of its state apparatus to enforce compliance with lockdown orders. South Korea and Taiwan can deploy technologically sophisticated tracking methods to test and isolate cases.

But the developing world simply can’t replicate these measures. In addition, universal social distancing and work closures may do more harm than good in places where a disproportionate number of people depend on a day’s or week’s labor to feed their families. In many countries in the global south it is also not unusual to have 15 people or more living in a small structure, making social distancing virtually impossible.

Fortunately, there are simple measures that poorer countries can take that will slow the spread of the virus. It is urgent that such countries begin to take them.

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