Person wears protective clothing and toilet paper

When panic strikes a society, it is rational for the individual to protect his loved ones. But it can prove to be counterproductive, the debaters write.


Panic can cost more than the pandemic

When the media reports deaths as a sports result, it is easy to lose your temper and panic. But perhaps panic is more dangerous than the pandemic itself. The measures to stop the infection will lead to increased hunger, water shortages and more violence around the world, write three debaters.

The Corona pandemic is hitting hard on all of us, both as individuals and on society at large. The deaths that occur as a direct result of the virus are tragic, but the indirect impact on society as a result of the pandemic causes even greater damage than the virus itself.

Now, however, we have a global panic, driven mostly by the media that daily reports deaths as sports results. This will lead to a high cost in the form of death and suffering that far exceeds what covid-19 could ever have achieved on its own.

To get a perspective on the crisis, we want to give some figures. 150 people die globally every day, of which about half are estimated to be age-related, but often with secondary complications, such as influenza or cancer. Covid-000 has so far had just over 150 confirmed deaths globally since November last year. Some countries underreport their cases, and some countries overreport for various reasons, while other countries simply do not have the infrastructure to identify the number of cases of a virus epidemic. However, this does not change the statistics globally, as these factors also apply to other statistically applicable cases of illness and death.

It is noteworthy that during the same period (since November 2019), an estimated more than 137 women have died in childbirth (over 800 women per day, according to the WHO) and 350 people committed suicide (800 per year, according to Suicide Awareness Voices Of Education). Both of these causes of death are largely due to poverty and lack of access to care with major individual and societal consequences.

Sweden has also overreacted

Sweden is a pioneering country, much thanks to epidemiologists making decisions instead of media-sensitive politicians. This has led to criticism from various countries where politicians and populists choose the path that a large majority of the population is intimidated into believing in. But even Sweden has overreacted - and not protected the most vulnerable due to poor preparedness for a slightly more dangerous viral infection such as covid-19, and by partially shutting down society.

Sweden is also a pioneering country as we still have a reasonably well-functioning social safety net, where most of us have the opportunity to be at home with almost full pay and access to healthcare regardless of our wallet. However, this is not the case for a large part of the world's population, who in many cases are also citizens of countries on which Sweden is completely dependent in several ways.

A large part of Sweden's economy is dependent on companies being able to export. When large international companies that buy Swedish products no longer have any operations, the subcontractors are most affected, both in Sweden and abroad. The Swedish state can currently bear part of the cost for the subcontractors in Sweden, but this does not apply globally. We must therefore quickly put an end to the global panic so that business can start up again and people can return to their jobs.

On March 18, a month ago, the International Labor Organization (ILO) ruled that over 25 million people (primarily women) will lose their livelihoods in 2020 due to measures taken to curb the covid-19 pandemic. But the final note is far from complete. For many women and children, this means a significantly increased risk of starvation, water shortages and an increased exposure to violence in the home and in society in general. Women often also have to take care of themselves and their family members - who in addition to covid-19 can have malaria, dengue, HIV and other infectious and deadly diseases.

We are dependent on each other

When panic strikes a society, it is rational for the individual to protect his loved ones. But it can prove to be counterproductive. In a globalized world, poor people in poor countries also mean something to people with money. The world's manufacturing industry today is completely dependent on labor from low - wage countries - and then not only in the clothing industry. Global value chains in, for example, the automotive industry, electronics, food and so on are equally dependent on these production countries. Countries that are now being called upon to isolate themselves socially.

People who live in generational homes or in shantytowns with less than 10 centimeters between them and their neighbors are the most vulnerable parts of the population. Due to the pandemic, people there are even more vulnerable. So the question now is if it would not have been better if people had gone to work and only stayed at home if they became ill, or belong to a special risk group - just as it works with other viruses. This is how it works, for example, with the annual flu that killed 565 globally in 000 and which kills around 2019 people a year in Sweden, according to the Swedish Public Health Agency. It does not give any media hysteria or general impact on the economy and people's ability to support themselves then. Economically speaking, a small part of the world's population is responsible for the consumption of the products that an extreme majority of people on earth make from making - often from hand to mouth. No salary, no food!

At present, there is a real risk that banks and capital-intensive institutions / individuals will be able to take over the treasury's surpluses and thus a large part of small business owners' assets. When taxpayers' money goes via banks to companies and investors, it is not an opportunity for a neighborhood restaurant, small-scale cleaning company or for a substitute teacher. How should they be able to compete for help with companies such as Volvo and SAS? We do not mean that Volvo and SAS do not need support, but rather that there is a risk that capital will be collected where it is traditionally collected, and not among those who lose their jobs due to the global measures against the pandemic.

Banks will be richer

The risk is that banks - which have historically been able to survive bad decisions and bankruptcies with the help of the state - will become richer. Among other things, they will own more properties when people are unable to pay their loans, and it will be easy for people and institutions with capital to buy up small businesses and their assets. This would have enormous consequences for, among others, democratic processes, small businesses, young people on their way into working life, low-paid women and the poor. There is a huge amount of research (for example, the famous one The Whitehall study) which states that widening income gaps harm society as a whole, but women and children in particular.

Politicians globally thus need to understand that the difficult decisions they were elected to make must be based on balanced facts and not popular opinion. The media must stop contributing to the panic and report objectively and nuancedly. People in general need to start choosing their sources of information by critically examining content without being drawn into the majority of daily reporting and opinion. When measures to protect parts of the population begin to harm society, we all need to demand that decision-makers actually make uncomfortable and politically incorrect decisions.

Very many think so, but unfortunately far too few think so. When the balance between thinking and thinking has stabilized, we can in a rational way also take care of those who are most exposed when the next virus such as covid-19 appears. The ongoing pandemic once again demonstrates the importance of aid and community efforts aimed at building the resilience of national institutions, local communities and poor people to external shocks such as natural disasters, financial crises and pandemics.

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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