COVI9-19: A delicate balancing act between health and the economy

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By Ukertor Moti

COVID-19, though a dangerous pandemic, is equally an independent international standard world-wide country governance assessor. It has exposed the strength or lack of it of institutions of countries world wide: some have been found weak, non-resilient and some completely dysfunctional. No sector of the economy is immune to the pandemic.
Globally, today (14/04/2020) there are 1,  938, 147 confirmed cases and 120, 728 deaths. America and Europe are worst hit. Africa generally has not reached a dangerous curve.
Health is very critical to the prosperity of any society. Its absence stifles production, travel, recreation and overall well-being. This is what COVID-19 has caused. It has locked down economies and created wide-ranging socio-economic disruptions (government revenues have dwindled, no taxes on companies, no VAT receipts etc).
Big and small scale businesses, artisans, petty traders have collapsed especially where there is total lockdown. Schools are closed resulting in months of lost education. The impact is felt across all sectors as the most effective mitigating strategies according to experts and WHO still remain lockdowns and social distancing.
As countries grapple with mitigation and containment, the socio-economic impact is affecting the containment measures which when unadvisedly relaxed, may have dire health consequences. This calls for a delicate balance between health and economic considerations. There are no easy choices. Each country will have to carefully navigate this dilemma within its context but based on what the figures and experts are saying.
Broadly, however, governments need two policy instruments to deal with the pandemic: a mitigating policy and a post COVID-19 recovery and rejuvenation policy. The mitigation policy will be a health policy-a proactive health policy framework and management approach. This will involve containment measures; protection of health care providers (provision of Personal Protection Equipments (PPEs) and incentives); testing centres and kits; isolation centres with relevant facilities etc.), in addition to aggressive education and health literacy.
The Post COVID-19 recovery and rejuvenation policy or economic policy will include short term palliatives to encourage citizens to endure lockdowns and observe social distancing. The recovery component of this  policy should be a coordinated public-private sector partnership for informed systems and cost-sharing strategies to re-open businesses. It will also factor in a phased opening of the economy and educational institutions where the effect of the pandemic is wide spread. For instance, in Nigeria, we are in the raining season and farming may go on in the rural areas as this activity inherently incorporates social distancing. This is necessary for food security.
Importantly, there must be synergy between the health policy and the economic and post COVID-19 recovery policy in order not to tip the delicate balance between health and economy.Ukertor Moti
* Ukertor Gabriel Moti is Professor of Public Sector Management and Governance, Department of Public Administration, University of Abuja.
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