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COVID - 19 19 Jan, 2022 Follow News


By Staff Writer


The cost of COVID-19 is increasingly being measured not just in lives lost (the ultimate cost), but in the impact on economies.

Whereas over the past 18 months since the pandemic broke the impact has been on recession-inducing lockdowns and their consequential effect on business activity and the wider economy, another cost implication is now spiking.

This is being noticed just as there are now tentative indications that the latest phase of the economically stagnating pandemic could be slowing down.

The fast-spreading Omicron variant, the most recent iteration of the constantly-mutating COVID-19 virus, has triggered a downturn which many of the world’s leading economies are only now trying to come to terms with.

A spate of stimulus measures are being unleased, following massive support packages of various forms of financing to save businesses from succumbing, although many have been forced to close - or divert into other areas.

Compounding the challenge of kickstarting COVID-hit economies is the increasing challenge of labour shortages, in this case, workers forced to isolate due to contracting the virus or for simply being around someone who has.

This is putting a severe strain on businesses and by extension, the wider economy, causing many governments to rethink their COVID-isolation policies, resulting in a review of their protocols and opting for shorter isolation periods.

One growing area of concern is the how COVID-19 isolation impacts mental health.

In several instances, the scale of the issue has also put health experts and policymakers at opposite ends of the spectrum in a debate over balancing safeguarding public health and keeping economies afloat.

This has a ripple effect throughout the economy and the society especially where essential service staff and even those in normally readily-available ancillary services are off the job for any extended period.

Particularly vulnerable to this is the hospitality sector, a key component of the tourism industry.

But it’s also felt in other particularly labour-intensive industries, or where staff work in close proximity to each other, or highly specialised sectors.

It’s also noted that figures for the number of people in isolation, once a key statistics in the daily reporting of COVID-19 by various governments, is now noticeably absent from many dashboards...or the information is said to be pending but never seems to materialise.

One of the critical aspects of managing and counting the cost of COVID, is knowing who is available to work and how much of the workforce is at least 'temporarily unavailable'.

Governments are under pressure to continue supporting businesses through costly lockdowns or where workers are due sick pay for having to isolate in compliance with national protocols.

They are also increasingly reluctant to impose further lockdowns citing that it's costly to the state and the economy, plus it has also become a political minefield.

Adding to the political dilemma is rebalancing national budgets and somehow finding the funds to pay for grants, soft loans, and other means of business and family support.

Concern is also mounting in several countries over many of the goodwill support payments which have been obtained fraudulently and the growing number of instances where governments (meaning the tax-paying public) have had to absorb those losses being unable to track down the culprits.

Some experts suggest that the pandemic , or at least this phase of it, might be waning. But it’s leaving in its wake considerable turmoil in the economy and society as the world seeks to adjust to the now oft-referred ‘new normal’.

Health experts remind that vaccinations are not a panacea against COVID-19, but they argue persuasively that it’s a vital buffer between the crippling effect of the disease on health and its equally crippling effect on the economy and society.

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