Covid-19: more questions about coronavirus, answered | The Economist

[Music] hi I'm meadow Carm The Economist's deputy editor and I'm a lock jaw the economists science correspondent we've received many many questions from you and we're going to try and answer some of them right now [Music] overall impact on the economy over the next few months partly depends upon what governments do there's a trade-off if you like the more governments try and keep people at home in order to stop the disease spreading the bigger the effect on the economy but already you've had various people who are following this like the vet the lobby group for hotels and and and hospitality in the u.


saying that they think the effect of this will be as big as 9/11 and the global financial crisis wrapped up in one you've seen Airlines calling for many many billion dollars in age you seen an uptick in unemployment already and Steve Newton the Treasury secretary warning that without action unemployment could reach 20 percent and in the real place we've actually seen this effect more than anywhere else so far which is China you saw the various numbers for industrial production retail sales falling thirteen twenty percent many times more than people were expecting the model people have used initially when they started with SARS which was a similar kind of disease stuck in struck in 2003 in the bounce-back there was really quick but I think one of the reasons we've seen extreme Falls in stock markets and other asset markets is it's become increasingly clear that SARS isn't a very good model the problems go deeper and they'll last longer now one of the things that government policy is trying to do is to keep essentially solid businesses that just happen to be hit by everyone staying at home to keep those businesses going so that when things start to improve they can pick up reasonably quickly the worry is that a lot of businesses go bankrupt and then the process the scarring if you like in the economy you're much worse than the process of recovery or be that much worse so people have like three shapes of recession in mind one is the V shape from SARS I think that's looking very unlikely one is the the other is the U shape where the bottom is quite long but things really do pick up and kind of go back to where they were and the one we want to avoid by saving companies and saving jobs is an l-shape recession where things go down and they stay down so it's particularly hard for people who live hand-to-mouth you know if you don't have savings and you have to go you have to get the crowded bus to work every day your chances of catching the disease are higher your resources if you do catch the disease and you can't work are smaller your ability to go and see a doctor who's got the solar healthcare that can help you infinitesimally I think you know it's going to be really really tough for such people there are a couple of things that might help often many of these many people in these countries tend to be of a younger demographic group and we know that the disease is particularly harsh on people the rural populations in some of these countries are larger and it's easier you know to keep away from people if you're in the countryside but they also have very big favelas and very big slum districts which are crowded so I think it's going to be particularly tougher and it's often the way isn't it that you know disease is the hips the what whole world hit poor people worst I just say one other thing to add which is when you take say the Ebola virus in 2014 you've got quite a good response from outside West Africa to help and that was um partly to do with humanitarian instincts but partly self-interest the rich world didn't want to see a Boehner go well right now there isn't you know the world's preoccupied with its own problems I think it's wishful thinking just because there's not much good evidence to suggest that hot temperatures would slow down the spread of this infection there's no mechanism for that necessarily um however what we should expect to see in many countries is that as the summer months come the cases will probably dip and that's not because of the effects on the virus itself but because more people are going to be outside in the open air and less likely to be inside rooms with people who are infected and so that's something you see in seasonal flu and all sorts of things that does mean though that when winter comes you're gonna see another rise and so yes heat in an indirect way Lutece infections but I do think there's anything it would suggest that the actual virus itself is going to stop that way it's a fact that it will mutate every virus will mutate because it's there's an evolutionary arms race it wants to infect you and multiply and go out into the world has infecting the people if your body or your oh there's a vaccine that sort of stops it and that's something you'll find a way around it and there was some early evidence maybe a month or so ago that the this particular strain of the corona virus had mutated to some extent and so we were dealing with too and we're not sure what's happening with that exactly yet most mutations are don't make any difference really to the infection rates and so on and you know the one array of good news about that mutations is that generally speaking a pathogen wants to if it's new in humans it wants to be able to survive in humans for as long as possible and so what it does is it tries to sort of become less virulent and because it doesn't kill you as much as quickly because it wants to spend the time reproducing so actually most infections most mutations you see tend to be on that type and yes there's always the possibility that you take to something else completely and seasonal flu does that seasonal flu is different every year and we have to come up with a new vaccine every year for it but but in general in general and they will eat will mutate and we just have to keep a watch on it there are some other corona viruses out there a couple of which cause colds and those those also are things that reinfect us every year so it's too early to say whether this this corona virus will be similar but but you know it's something to bear in mind that this could become a seasonal kind of infection and that you know you need to have vaccines if they find a vaccine eventually you have vaccines that are kind of predicting how what kind of seasonal version you'll have that's the billion dollar question and it takes normally a vaccine it takes something like five or ten or twenty years to introduce one from scratch we've never seen this this particular corona virus before and so there are some ideas of what might you might you might do just sort of try and tackle it but where we starting from scratch pretty much now we're hoping that's not going to take 20 years to create a vaccine they were in the wake of the Ebola epidemic five or six years ago new practices were put into place to try and speed up the introduction of new vaccines to try and do the trials faster because you've got to go through many stages of clinical trials which involves safety for human volunteers and then giving them to people who actually have the infection and so new protocols are put into place that allow you to develop a vaccine in quick time during the course of an epidemic now even then it will take something like 18 months to a couple of years before you're seeing vaccines available people [Music] unfortunately all my alters are we need hot data but I do know that there's a study about to start exactly that so we'll find out in about two years and then they'll be long-term studies as well this will be one of those things that people write about in economics textbooks in the future of the of the generation that left school for six months and what happened to them yeah I imagine they're more creative more inquisitive obviously in the very short run there are you know emissions have gone down and and and you know I've heard claims or I haven't seen the evidence of it that you know there are fewer people dying in China at the moment because there aren't so many road traffic accidents and because the skies are clear there aren't so many people ingesting sort of toxins through aerial pollution but but and you know most of the things that people are thinking about here are stocks you know there are stocks of carbon dioxide ants and stocks of greenhouse gases and this makes very little difference to the stocks and in addition to that you know if you get a big slowdown in investment it slows the transition out of electric vehicles photovoltaic cells wind power and so forth so I'm not at all convinced that it's a net positive for nature [Music] [Applause] let me give you my hopes rather than what I think it will look like look like one thing that I hope is that we as a society take more value in our experts there's been through various populist tough uprisings in the last few years that you know you know I still really move towards not believing people who seems to be an authority and you know although some of that might just be a hype I feel like there is this thing of like you know scientists and people who study all these sort of arcane ideas about how how the world works and might not be so useful to everyday existence well this shows you that a lot of that stuff is incredibly important in our responses to how the world operates so this pandemic was predicted multiple times by many many people and you can argue that some people listen to some people didn't for those same sorts of people scientists are telling us about climate change I'm not a longer-term thing and we don't seem to be doing much on that front or haven't been doing anyway so I hope that there's a greater respect for these sorts of models and predictions that people are making I also hope that I also hope that it sort of does allow us to just appreciate that you know globalization is this wonderful force that's created and much more opportunity for the world and and and wealth and so on but that we don't we we aren't all the separate countries that exist don't there isn't there's no boundaries for viruses there's no fun of boundaries of pathogens and diseases and then actually coordination is incredibly important for all of these things we've been seeing the world separating itself politically in many ways and I hope that this reverses some of that we're dedicated to bring you the best reporting we can with the best analysis of this phenomenal story as it changes from one day to the next and if you want to keep up with what we're doing all of our coverage is available if you just click on the link you can see and thanks for watching.

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