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It’s time for a ‘no regrets’ approach to coronavirus (Washington Post)

February 4, 2020

From the article (by Jeremy Konyndyk):

"At the beginning of January, almost no one outside China had heard of the pneumonia-like illness the world now knows as Wuhan coronavirus or, more technically, 2019-nCoV.

The close of the month saw more than 11,000 cases confirmed, with counts rising daily. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a public health emergency of international concern. Hospitals in the epicenter, the Chinese city of Wuhan, are overwhelmed and turning away patients. No other country has yet experienced Wuhan-like conditions, but findings released last week by researchers in China concluded that 2019-nCoV may be more contagious, and have higher pandemic potential, than the 2003 SARS outbreak. Many public health experts are now arguing that given the scale of transmission, focus should shift from containment to mitigation — minimizing spread rather than expecting we can fully stop it.

Faced with this kind of uncertain risk, policymakers must walk a narrow path between aggressive preparedness and counterproductive alarmism. In emergency management, there is a response principle known as “no regrets”: the idea that in an unpredictable crisis, we should proactively over-prepare, rather than wait and see. Importantly, this does not mean recklessly deploying extreme measures; it means judiciously gearing up worst-case preparedness well before a worst-case outcome is certain. This must be the posture as the world confronts 2019-nCoV..."

 

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Senior Policy Fellow