The Policy Solutions to Novel Coronavirus

HOW TO CITE THIS ARTICLE: Evans O. (2020). Socio-economic impacts of novel coronavirus: The policy solutions, BizEcons Quarterly, 7, 3–12.

1. Proactive Management Approaches

Historically, humans have battled emerging diseases through early detection followed by coordinated quarantine, as demonstrated by the SARS outbreak in 2003, the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the COVID-19 outbreak. Continued and improved coordinated international disease surveillance is important. A shift in both research and pandemic management efforts must be geared towards proactive management approaches. In due course, medical science needs an enhanced understanding of the origins of pandemic emergence, spillover, and post-spillover evolution so that the virus can be better diagnosed and prevented.

2. Health Policy Framework Addressing Many of the Social Determinants of Health

The coronavirus imposes a substantial burden for the patient and the society in terms of direct and indirect costs related to medical care, disability, early mortality, and negative employment consequences, such as loss of productivity due to presenteeism and absenteeism. Economic cost of illness-related productivity losses can be significant. These costs can create barriers in access to services, affect health outcomes and contribute to the financial burden of households. On the other hand, direct non-medical costs, such as food, accommodation and travel costs incurred when searching for and accessing health care services, may also be significant. Studies such as Olivera & Buitrago (2020) have suggested that a health policy framework addressing as many of the social determinants of health as possible may be crucial in containing such social costs. Therefore, reducing this burden is a key responsibility of the health system.

3. Education and Health Literacy

Another challenge that seems surmountable is education and health literacy (Rohr et al, 2019). Not surprisingly, education is well-documented as a major contributing factor to reducing infectious diseases. Therefore, enhancing education and health literacy can have reinforcing positive effects on the ability of humans to fight more deadly diseases, such as coronavirus. Reducing COVID-19 would also have knock-on effects for education and health literacy because increasing cases of the virus would impede cognition, learning and school attendance. Thus, enhanced education and health literacy have the potential to synergistically fuel reduction in the cases of the virus.

4. National and International Shifts in Investments

National and international shifts in investments would also pay large dividends for COVID-19 control. There is considerable evidence that the developing world will struggle to feed its growing populations due to the poverty trap of infectious disease (Molyneux, Hotez & Fenwick, 2005; Hotez, Fenwick, Savioli & Molyneux, 2009; Conteh, Engels & Molyneux, 2010). However, ample evidence also suggests that this trap could be broken via investments in health infrastructure and preventive chemotherapy (Hotez, 2009; Ngonghala et al, 2017). Curing COVID-19 has the added benefit of potentially reducing the nutritional needs of cured individuals by stopping the feeding of their parasites.

5. Public and Private Partnerships

Ending COVID-19 will demand intensified public-private funding, preferably delivered at the international level, to strengthen research, advocacy, and the global control effort. Public and private stakeholders at local, national and international levels must collaborate more systematically to ensure informed systems, and encourage cost-sharing strategies for disease prevention and preparedness where possible and provide optimal intervention strategies where necessary. Controlling the virus will require nothing less than such robust public-private partnerships.

6. World Technical Council on Coronavirus

In order to better protect the world from COVID-19 and the untold attendant social and economic consequences, this article proposes the formation of a standing World Technical Council on Coronavirus. Its mission would be to control the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the attendant health, social, and economic risks. The Council would support improve collaboration and make high-level, evidence-based recommendations to existing organizations such as WHO, national governments, and global non-profits. It would identify gaps in surveillance, outbreak readiness, biomedical countermeasures, and financing.

Conclusion

Considering the grave human, societal, and economic consequences, there is a critical need for health professionals and policy makers to recognize the magnitude of the COVID-19 epidemic and the potential socio-economic devastation. This article has provided policy solutions from previous pandemics and the literature. Most of these policy solutions lie within the realm of government and other stakeholders with capacity for decision-making; action must hence begin here. Without a global ‘call to action’, however, COVID-19 will exact an increasingly shattering toll around the world. Multi-national and multi-sectorial efforts are needed because prevention is beyond the latitude of any one government or usual models of the health care system. Effective implementation of these policy solutions will therefore require full support of all stakeholders, including governments, health professionals, the media, non-governmental organizations, communities, and individuals. To fully curb the coronavirus pandemic, it is crucial for international agencies and national governments to take the leadership role in developing and implementing wide-ranging policies that make the diagnosis, therapeutics and vaccines for the virus a global and national priority.

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