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Beating COVID-19 and the Economic Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens the world with disaster. But the crisis also offers governments a rare chance to undertake policy changes that address the short-term public-health challenge and boost the global economy’s long-term growth potential.

NEW YORK – Back in January, I predicted that the spread of the new COVID-19 coronavirus in China would reach a turning point by the second or third week of February. Indeed, the total number of serious and critical cases in the country has been declining since February 22, and there have been no new cases in the last few days other than international travelers arriving in China. Unfortunately, new infections outside China have risen very fast, with potentially disastrous consequences for public health and the global economy.

Faced with this pandemic, policymakers can draw several useful lessons from China and other countries that were among the first to be hit by COVID-19. This is especially useful for countries that have not yet experienced a major outbreak. Above all, they must act fast.

First, governments and public-health authorities must ramp up preparations before a major outbreak occurs. When COVID-19 hits, there will be a spike in demand for testing kits, face masks, alcohol wipes, protective clothing, hospital beds, and life-support machines. Europe and the United States did not use their six-week lead time well; other countries should get ready now.