March 30, 2020
Media Appearances /
Posted by NCID

This article was published at the Institute for Fiscal Studies website on March 30th. The article is written by Junior Researcher Iván Kim and Non-Resident Fellow Alex Armand together with Allison Andrew and Britta Augsburg. What follows is an extract of the whole article. You can read the entire piece here.

With no vaccination available, scientists recommend non-pharmaceutical interventions – in particular, handwashing, social distancing, and the shielding of elderly and vulnerable groups – as the only feasible way of suppressing the spread of COVID-19, and lessening its mortality rate. Such measures, when extensively and strictly enforced, appear to have been effective in stemming the spread of the virus in South Korea and China, and there are promising early signs of their effectiveness in Italy too.  

These types of measures are particularly important in contexts with fragile health systems – typically observed in Low and Lower-Middle-Income Countries (LICs) – which will swiftly be overwhelmed if the disease spreads beyond a small number of cases.

However, the success of these non-pharmaceutical interventions rests on widespread compliance which could be more difficult to achieve in LICs than in other parts of the world. In particular, as we will set out here, most households living in LICs are likely to face significant challenges in adopting these measures. Many of these challenges are driven by poverty and economic insecurity and include, for example, communal living and lack of handwashing facilities. These difficulties suggest that government policy advocating handwashing, social distancing, and the shielding of the vulnerable may not be effective at suppressing COVID-19, and lessening its impact, in LICs unless accompanied with substantial support to help households comply. 

Providing such support is essential to save lives in LICs. It will also benefit citizens of higher-income countries, given that if the disease continues to be endemic anywhere in the world, the likelihood of continued global spread will remain high.

In this note, we highlight some of the challenges households in LICs will face in adopting three preventative measures: (1) washing hands frequently with soap; (2) adopting social distancing measures; and (3) shielding more vulnerable citizens, including the elderly.

To read the entire article please click here.