China’s economic restart could be a model for US to follow

By Global Times (13 April 2020) – US President Donald Trump has called the decision on when and how to reopen the economy “the biggest of his life” as navigating the balance between economic interests and public health simultaneously has been a difficult task.

When the US should relax social distancing guidelines – which are set to expire at the end of April – is now a decision significant to both economic and public health. And it is indeed a tough one given the current situation in the country. The US has seen more than 20,000 deaths as a result of the disease. 16.8 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in a three-week period as the US economy ground to a halt amid the pandemic.

Although White House health advisor Dr Anthony Fauci said on Sunday that the coronavirus outbreak is slowing down and that part of the country may ease restrictions in May, it seems that many governors and public health experts still urge caution due to fears of another wave of infections. As the pandemic has laid bare the US’ failure in containing the initial spread of virus, it is no wonder many are now inclined to caution when it comes to reopening the economy.

Their concerns may be justified, but it is impossible to wait until conditions are perfect to restart the economy. Perhaps instead of asking when will life return to normal, Americans should ask whether the government has made the essential preparations for such an outcome. In any country around the world, an economic restart must be based on proper virus prevention measures. Otherwise, the situation will only worsen.

China is about two months ahead of the US in terms of negotiating between virus control and economic revival. With 98.6 percent of its major industrial enterprises having resumed operations by the end of March, China has successfully shown the world that returning to normal life doesn’t mean scrapping anti-virus efforts.

By looking to China, the US could learn how to jump-start its economy without triggering a second wave of infections.

For starters, there is no need to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to easing social distancing orders across the country. In states with less severe outbreaks, economic activities should be encouraged to restart. Meanwhile, sufficient testing is still needed to determine who should be quarantined and receive medical treatment in a timely manner. Moreover, digitalized tools can be of great help in keeping track of people’s movements and detecting who has a recent history of travel to highly affected regions, while e-commerce can help reduce gatherings.

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