Fence off the vulnerable to protect economy, say economists

Keep grandma out of IC. Photo: DutchNews.nl
Keep grandma out of IC. Photo: DutchNews.nl

The cabinet is failing to provide a rationale for the complete lockdown and should focus on giving those less vulnerable to the virus more freedom, a group of leading economists and other financial experts argue in the NRC.

The group, which includes economics professor Barbara Baarsma and professor of economics and government finance Bas Jacobs, said the focus of the government seems to ‘have shifted from protecting the vulnerable and preventing the collapse of the health service to making sure no one is infected’.

The figures do not support the shift, they said, because the government shouldn’t take the number of people who are testing positive as a guideline but the number of IC and hospital admissions, which is now half of what it was at the peak of the first wave, they said.

What the economists suggest instead is to open up the economy by applying ‘a managed risk policy’ aimed at separating the vulnerable from those who are supposed to be less affected by the virus.

The group accuse the government of ignoring the advice on their designated website Herstel-NL which includes a package of measures to protect the elderly and people with underlying illnesses, such as ‘corona free zones’, meal services and benefits which would enable the young to have more freedom, they said.

The government, the group said, is not giving enough importance to the economic and social damage caused by the measures. ‘People are not only potential coronavirus patients’, the group said, but also entrepreneurs and workers.

The cabinet called the stricter lockdown measures ‘the only remaining option’. Without the total lockdown, health institute RIVM calculaties the number of infected people at over 170,000, which is higher than at the height of the first wave. That threatened to overwhelm the health service, with IC admissions of over 100 a day, less regular care and many related deaths.

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