Two important questions: How deadly is the virus and what should be the policy response. Two articles that make convincing arguments about deadliness of the virus being overestimated are as follows:
- Covid-19 total lockdown: An economic and humanitarian disaster by Rupa Subramanya on orfonline.org
Is the Coronavirus as Deadly as They Say? by By Eran Bendavid and Jay Bhattacharya in the Wall Street Journal.
Both the above articles argue that the actual fatality rate of COVID-19 should be much lower than what is being reported if calculated correctly. The second article is behind a pay wall unfortunately but the crux of the argument is based on the wrong way of fatality rate calculation- should be calculated as percentage of infected population and not as of confirmed cases done by several epidemiological modelers. Here is what they say:
How can we reconcile these estimates with the epidemiological models? First, the test used to identify cases doesn’t catch people who were infected and recovered. Second, testing rates were woefully low for a long time and typically reserved for the severely ill. Together, these facts imply that the confirmed cases are likely orders of magnitude less than the true number of infections. Epidemiological modelers haven’t adequately adapted their estimates to account for these factors.
Given this background, an article by two renowned development economists, Debraj Ray and S Subramnain becomes especially pertinent.
In India’s battle against Covid-19, we are inevitably confronted by the choice between social distancing on the one hand, and denying people their livelihood on the other. Recognising the unsustainability of a general, mandatory lockdown, Ray and Subramanian put forth a proposal whereby the young are legally permitted to work and the locus of measures to avoid intergenerational transmission is shifted to the household.
I am glad that at least the Delhi and Kerala governments are resorting to humanitarian policies like opening food shelters to care for the plight of migrant workers, however, it might be worth deliberating on the policy proposals by Ray and Subramanian above.