Guest opinion by Wim Röst
A virus dies out if it cannot spread to ‘fresh people’ for two or three weeks. All infected people should be contained at the beginning of an epidemic. ‘Helicopter money’ is proposed to prevent the further spread of the virus and to boost parts of the economy. It should be provided broadly to all individuals in affected areas and to essential parts of the economy needed to respond effectively to an unknown situation. Unusual times require unusual but effective measures.
After an internationally relatively ‘quiet’ period ‘the virus’ is spreading explosively over larger areas, even worldwide. Because the virus spreads by physical contact all people should be isolated as much as possible which lays a heavy burden on the economy. National and international economies are affected but also millions of ‘personal economies’. People need to earn money and that is why they continue with physical contacts and spread the virus.
Original measures are needed to stop the spiral.
If a virus cannot further transmit itself to other people it will die out after some weeks or (nationally and internationally) a bit more. Another reason for dying out is that enough people have developed antibodies: the virus can’t find enough ‘fresh’ people to infect and diminishes. But this is a risky path because more lethal forms of the virus may develop: viruses mutate and can become very lethal, something that happened with the Spanish flu where ‘the second wave’ caused tenths of millions of victims.
For governments it is important not to overload the medical system which happens easily because the present virus is very contagious. Five percent of all registered cases so far have been ‘severe’ requiring intensive care and overloading available medical services.
A ‘brake’ on spreading is needed. All physical contact between people (as much as possible) should be avoided. Starting today. Therefore, some economic problems have to be solved. Quickly.
Keeping everyone at home hurts the economy. Keeping everyone busy hurts public health. New measures are needed to keep essential parts of the economy running and to keep most people ‘at home’ deprived of ‘physical and social contacts’. The internet helps but quick and effective economic measures are needed too
Helicopter money is money that is given ‘for free’ by the government to everyone or to specific sectors or both. Recently Hong Kong provided ‘helicopter money’ to relieve the economy that has been hurt, but ‘helicopter money’ can also pro-actively be used not only to protect the national economy but in this case very specifically in preventing a further uncontrolled spread of the virus.
In order to keep people at home as much as is possible some financial guarantee for individuals is needed. Governments could donate $1,000 (or any other amount) to all adult individuals (and a certain amount for children) to help pay their bills for the first month.
Large amounts of money can be used by the government to fight the war against the virus in order to avoid medical chaos. Production of pop-up hospitals, medical supplies and other essential services (such as home delivery of goods) should get large amounts of government money in order to prevent chaos and in order to provide enough services for the people.
The present rapid spread of a virulent virus results in ‘not-normal’ times that need ‘not-normal’ answers. In order to keep people at home (needed to avoid a further rapid spread of the virus) and in order to keep the economy going both individuals and essential sectors of the economy should be supported by ‘helicopter money’.
If supplied rapidly and in considerable amounts the helicopter money could help us reach our goals quickly. Individuals will be relieved; government services and businesses can act.
Quick actions by governments are needed.
The opinions expressed are those of the author.
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About the author: Wim Röst studied human geography in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The above is his personal view. He is not connected to firms or foundations nor is he funded by government(s). He is not a specialist in medical issues nor in epidemics.