How developing nations should’ve faced the COVID-19 pandemic?
Different governments have been taking different approaches to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ranging from Sweden’s approach of keeping large sections of society open, to the strict lockdown in South Africa, we have seen different approaches and different results.
Developing nations however, are uniquely vulnerable. The ability to sustain lockdowns is not equal across the board, and there is a genuine risk of economic collapse in developing nations, particularly for those who are already heavily in debt. To add to their anguish, many of them face additional impediments. Some have ongoing internal conflict, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), others have natural disasters to cope with, such as Tanzania who have been hit with a huge flood.
Today we ask the question, does one size fit all?
Should developing nations have implemented a partial lockdown instead of a complete lockdown?
It is unclear whether a complete lockdown is even the safest option in the first place
- The economic consequences are simply too large to contemplate a complete lockdown. Similar policies to the successful Vietnam model could be followed where hot spots could be identified while letting most of society go about their daily lives, particularly the most economically vulnerable. People are dependent on their daily income to feed themselves, and simply starve when forced to stay at home.
Government and non-government assistance is simply not enough when more than half the country lives below the poverty line. Starving is no way to live, and if necessary, some risks have to be assumed in order to allow people to live with dignity.
- It is unclear whether a complete lockdown is even the safest option in the first place. A complete lockdown means that workers who are no longer working, would rush back to their rural villages as they cannot afford to live in the city without their daily income, thus spreading the virus around the country. Travel restrictions are unlikely to stop such desperate people, as we saw how desperate migrant workers walked hundreds of miles to go back to their village homes in India.
In addition, most people cannot stay at home, they get hungry and need immediate income, many do not even have access to clean water at home. So they would attempt to break lockdown rules and look for informal ways of earning money to feed their family, leading to even more spreading of the virus. They live in congested spaces, so preventing them from working may not actually make them safe.
Containment is crucial to long term economic stability
- Safety is of utmost importance. Both the government and non-governmental organizations should provide relief for those suffering, but continuing to work is too risky given the congested workplaces that are typical in developing countries. A complete lockdown is the best way to prevent the spread of the virus, as it involves travel restrictions that force people to stay in and wait for relief, if necessary, instead of heading out and endangering everyone.
Workplaces in developing nations tend to be congested, so it is important to minimize exposure to the best extent possible. Given the lack of resources, testing is unlikely to be adequate to accurately identify hot spots before it is too late. Thus a complete lockdown is the only sure way to be safe.
- Containment is crucial to long term economic stability. There are some solutions for short-term pain. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is available to lend to countries that need an injection of money to cope with the crisis. Politicians such as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, have also talked about the possibility of debt forgiveness for developing countries.
However, if we do not contain through a complete lockdown, the economic consequences will be too devastating. If we fail to monitor hot spots and large outbreaks happen, developing countries simply do not have enough hospital beds to deal with the situation. This means that if an outbreak happens then the country will be affected for a long period of time. The price will be human lives and abject poverty. Better to do a complete lockdown now and suffer a little, than to wait and suffer immensely.