mzhu4_ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDSAFP via Getty Images_coronavirusvaccinedoctorscientist Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Innovation in the Pandemic Age

Lockdowns cannot last forever, and COVID-19 is unlikely to disappear on its own. The world must leverage its collective resources to harness the power of science, innovation, and markets to devise a more sustainable solution – namely, a cure or a vaccine.

BEIJING – The COVID-19 coronavirus poses a threat on a scale not seen since the so-called Spanish flu killed more than 50 million people in 1918-19. To confront the pandemic, many governments have imposed stay-at-home orders and even strict lockdowns, bringing the global economy nearly to a standstill. But the real solution to this crisis is not containment. It is innovation.

To be sure, in the near term, containment and mitigation are essential to protect the most vulnerable people – the elderly, the poor and badly housed, and the immunocompromised – and to avoid overwhelming health-care systems, as has occurred in Italy, Spain, and New York City. Containment saved countless lives during the plagues of the Middle Ages, and during the Spanish flu pandemic. It can do the same today.

And, indeed, the experiences of China, Singapore, and South Korea show that resolute containment measures – such as lockdowns and contact tracing – can be effective in slashing new COVID-19 infections. And, because viruses don’t respect borders, helping developing countries with weak public institutions and health-care systems to strengthen their own containment efforts and provide adequate care should be a top international priority.