Strict blockades like those instigated in China, when the coronavirus outbreak began, are better for economies than longer, more moderate closings like those taken by the United States and many European countries, a new international study suggests.
Shorter but tighter locks don’t affect companies as strongly, researchers reported Wednesday in the journal Nature Human Behavior. Businesses may face a short and extreme shutdown, but run out of supplies and reserves as time goes on.
And if the pandemic returns, a second round of blockades will really hurt economies, the team led by economist Dabo Guan of Tsinghua University in China found.
“While predicting the actual cost of locks is not possible at this stage, our research suggests that shorter and stricter locks minimize the impact on supply chains, while gradually easing restrictions over the course of a year as well it can be less damaging than a quick lifting of restrictions followed by another blockade, ”Guan said in a statement.
The team simulated three types of confinement: a strict confinement where 80% of travel and work ceases, similar to what China did; a more moderate blockade with a 60% reduction in work and travel, similar to what the United States did; plus a third lighter lock with 40% reductions.
They claimed that a gradual reduction in restrictions over a year would minimize damage to the global supply chain. But if the virus resurfaced in the fall, forcing a second round of restrictions, costs to the economy would worsen by a third.
“Our analysis quantifies the global economic benefits of robust public health responses and suggests that the economic justifications for reopening businesses could backfire if they result in another round of blockades,” said Steve Davis of the University of California Irvine, who participated in the study.
The situation will be even worse if countries stagger a second round of closings and restrictions instead of coordinating them if a second global closure occurs. A coordinated global closure would increase costs by 33%, but if countries move on their own, costs will increase by 57%, the model predicts.