The Summer of Disaster
A full year after the first indications that mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 would be highly effective and safe, the world is now reeling from even more dangerous variants of the virus. What does that say about us, particularly in the wealthy Global North?
BERKELEY – The world is facing two disasters that are making the COVID-19 crisis doubly worse than it ought to be. The first is the rise of the Delta variant, which is twice as contagious and 1.5-2 times deadlier than the original coronavirus. The second disaster is that Global North governments have not committed the resources to increase vaccine production to the scale needed to immunize the global population by the end of this year. Worse, the longer we drag our feet, the more likely that the immunity furnished by vaccines and previous COVID-19 infections will begin to erode.
Given these problems, it is too early to start talking about the “post-pandemic” world economy. Public health should remain the top-line priority. As for the economy, the focus should be on keeping the basic economic engine running and avoiding a massive increase in poverty. With the Delta variant running rampant, we should postpone efforts to restore economies to full-employment “normalcy” until after we have achieved some combination of vaccine and acquired herd immunity.
After all, since we cannot know what state the global economy will be in six months from now, we don’t yet know which policies will be most appropriate for driving a smooth and sustainable recovery. By the same token, we should reject proposals to “cool down” the world economy in order to avoid some shadowy inflationary spiral or a return of bond-market vigilantes in the future. The Delta variant should be met not with cooling but warming.