Covid; No End to Economic Crisis Without End to Health Crisis

Covid; No End to Economic Crisis Without End to Health Crisis

A year into the Covid 19 crisis and the second wave of the pandemic hitting hard, a IMF report authored by economists Ruchir Agarwal and Gita Gopinath stressed that the ending the pandemic was a solvable problem but one that required further coordinated global action.

In the IMF Staff Discussion Note named “A Proposal to End the COVID-19 Pandemic”,  the authors stated that urgent steps are needed to arrest the rising human toll and economic strain from the pandemic.

Stating that “Pandemic policy is economic policy”, they both said that ending the health crisis was critical for global macro and financial stability.

FIGHTING THE PANDEMIC 

The discussion note analyses multiple dimensions of the fight against Covid 19 pandemic. They have also proposed several pragmatic actions at the national and multilateral level to tackle the health crisis. One of the proposals is to vaccinate at least 40 percent of the population in all countries by 2021 end. They also propose for at least 60 percent vaccination by the first half of 2022. The authors propose tracking and insuring against downside risks. In the discussion note, the authors want to ensure widespread testing and tracing, maintaining adequate stocks of therapeutics and enforcing public health measures in places where vaccine coverage is low.

PROPOSALS

The Economists estimate the cost of the proposal at around 50 billion dollars while building on the budgeting of the ACT Accelerator. They point out that this proposal was much small when compared to the potential benefits of a faster end to the pandemic, which is estimated at around nine trillion dollars. In the Discussion Note, they said that grants of at least 35 billion dollar might be got from public, private, and multilateral donors. The remaining can be got from national governments potentially supported by concessional financing from multilateral agencies.

Elaborating on the proposed steps, the authors have called for providing additional upfront grants to COVAX of at least four billion dollars to increase vaccine coverage goal from 20 percent to 30 percent for 91 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs): They said that this would help in finalising their orders, and activate unutilised vaccine capacity.

The authors also wanted to ensure free cross border flows of raw materials and finished vaccines. The restrictions jeopardised vaccine access for billions of people in the developing world, they said. Apart from this, the authors also said that the countries could donate at least 500 million vaccines courses (equivalent to around one billion doses) in 2021, even if they prioritise their own populations. They wanted to make at-risk investments to diversify and increase vaccine production capacity by one billion doses in early 2022

Another proposal was to scale up genomic surveillance and systemic supply chain surveillance to handle mutation scenarios or shocks to the supply chain. The authors wanted to ensure widespread testing, sufficient therapeutics, and adequate public health measures, and preparation for vaccine deployment.

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