Should Low-Income Countries Impose the Same Social Distancing Guidelines as Europe and North America to Halt the Spread of Covid-19?
Policies imposed in rich countries to fight the coronavirus could have adverse effects in low-income nations, potentially endangering more lives than they save. We combine country specific estimates of economic benefits of disease suppression with an epidemiological model to demonstrate that while the benefits of social distancing translate to a 59% savings in US GDP, it only translates to savings of 14% of Bangladesh’s GDP or 19% of India’s GDP. Not only are the epidemiological and economic benefits of social distancing much smaller in poorer countries, such policies may also exact a heavy toll on the poorest and most vulnerable. More work is needed to determine if the low mortality estimates of developing countries hold if the prevalence of comorbidities and exposure to pollution are taken into account.