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How do you contain a global epidemic such as coronavirus? (The Economist)

January 30, 2020

From the article:

"...Locking down large areas, as China is currently doing with the entire province of Hubei, with a population of nearly 60m, is untested in modern times. Such efforts can backfire. One lesson from the Ebola outbreaks in west Africa is that if those under quarantine are not cared for and do not feel that the suffering they are enduring for the common good is respected, they will try to evade the quarantine, says Jeremy Konyndyk of the Centre for Global Development, a think-tank in Washington. That makes matters worse because in an outbreak it is crucial to know who is infected, where they have been and where they are going. A heavy-handed attempt to quarantine West Point, a settlement of 70,000 people in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, during the Ebola outbreak in 2014 was abandoned after residents responded with riots. By contrast, a similar but well-organised quarantine in Sierra Leone, in which traditional leaders were brought on board first, did not meet resistance.

If China’s drastic measures help delay epidemics of the Wuhan virus in other countries by a few months, that could make a huge difference, says Dr Farrar. Hospitals in Europe and America will be better placed to handle a surge of infections in late spring, compared with February when they are overwhelmed by the peak in cases of the seasonal flu. Such a delay could also be crucial for testing a vaccine for the Wuhan virus. Several are already in the works in China, America and Australia. Dr Farrar reckons a vaccine could be ready for clinical trials in 6-12 months..."


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Senior Policy Fellow