CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan disproves 'health or economy' COVID-19 argument: study

09/12/2020 01:06 PM
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(Image taken from: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-health-economy)
(Image taken from: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-health-economy)

Taipei, Sept. 12 (CNA) Taiwan is one of several countries that clearly disproves the argument that governments must choose between protecting people's health and protecting the economy in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research from Oxford University.

In a study posted on "Our World in Data," an online journal run by the Oxford Martin School, researcher Joe Hasell compared COVID-19 death rates in 38 countries with their latest gross domestic product (GDP) data.

Hasell first examined the scale of the pandemic's economic impact on the countries by comparing their GDP figures in the second quarter of 2020 with those from the same quarter in 2019.

The study found that Taiwan was the least impacted, with a decline of 0.6 percent in economic growth, followed by South Korea's fall of 3 percent and Lithuania's 3.7 percent.

By contrast, Spain, the United Kingdom and Tunisia all experienced declines of more than 20 percent, which Hasell noted was "4 to 5 times larger than any other quarterly fall on record for these countries."

The worst economic impact was seen in Peru, which suffered a year-on-year fall of 30.2 percent.

(Image taken from: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-health-economy)
(Image taken from: https://ourworldindata.org/covid-health-economy)

In the next part of the study, Hasell compared the GDP data with the countries' number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths per million people as of Aug. 30.

His study found that there was no correlation between lower death rates and higher declines in GDP.

"Contrary to the idea of a trade-off (between health and the economy)," Hasell said, countries which suffered the most severe economic downturns "are generally among the countries with the highest COVID-19 death rate."

For instance, in Peru, Spain and the United Kingdom, which suffered big drops in their economic growth, the respective COVID-19 death rates were relatively high at 867.62, 620.49 and 611.29 per million people, the study showed.

Meanwhile, countries like Taiwan, South Korea and Lithuania, which had experienced the least economic impact, had significantly lower death rates of 0.29, 6.3 and 31.59, respectively.

The study, however, did not look into contributing factors such as a country's exposure to previous coronaviruses, which may have boosted their level of alertness or people's immunity and the speed of their response. It also does not compare the standard of the countries' health care systems, and address cultural or political factors that may have contributed to or hindered their responses.

In some cases, the study found, countries with similar GDP falls had death rates that varied widely.

Comparing the United States and Sweden with Denmark and Poland, all of which saw economic contractions of 8-9 percent, Hasell noted that the U.S. and Sweden had recorded five to ten times more deaths per million than Denmark and Poland, suggesting the influence of additional factors.

One thing the study seems to indicate is that countries that took effective action not only saved lives but also their economy.

"As well as saving lives, countries controlling the outbreak effectively may have adopted the best economic strategy too," Hasell said.

China was excluded from the data comparisons because of the earlier timing of its COVID-19 outbreak and economic downturn, according to the study. The country's GDP shrank by 6.8 percent in the first quarter but has bounced back since, growing by 3.2 percent in the second quarter.

It managed to contain the spread of the virus relatively quickly and the huge size of its domestic economy meant that it was not heavily dependent on trade and tourism to boost economic growth.

(By Matthew Mazzetta)

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