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Countries should act together to beat coronavirus, research shows

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Countries should act together to beat coronavirus, research shows

Lack of co-ordination between countries can result in excessive delays to their handling of pandemics, modelling from researchers at the University of Warwick and University of the Balearic Islands has shown.

Using a model of epidemic contagion, the researchers analysed the effect of co-operative decision-making on both the level and timing of policy interventions. The analysis revealed that countries making independent decisions are excessively cautious and wait too long before taking action. They take longer to enact policy interventions that are likely to have the biggest impact on infection rates.

The analysis showed that, when the cost of interventions is lower than the anticipated damage caused by the disease, countries working together are also less likely to stop taking action if they become pessimistic about the possibility of finding a cure. The level of intervention keeps increasing until the spread of the disease is fully stopped, resulting in a higher number of survivors in the long run. In contrast, independent decision makers are more likely to stop interventions if they don’t believe a cure can be found, leading to maximum spread of the disease and a higher mortality rate. The researchers argue that managing global problems – from climate change to disease – requires global institutions to lead global co-operation. This is crucial for determining not just whether action should be taken, but when it should be taken.

Professor Carlo Perroni, one of the authors of the study, said: “In the case of infectious disease, the costs and benefits of different actions are likely to be relatively consistent across different regions of the world . However, countries have so far acted independently in their management of the coronavirus pandemic, for example taking different approaches to testing for the virus and restricting the movement of people.”

“Our analysis shows that international cooperation is key for reducing the spread of the disease. Policymakers should coordinate their responses and not be distracted by political motives and incentives ."

Read the full paper

Climate Change and Pandemics: On the Timing of Interventions to Preserve a Global Common’ by Monica Giovanniello (University of the Balearic Islands) and Carlo Perroni (University of Warwick and CESifo) was updated in March 2020.

A link to a continuously updated version is available via the Warwick Department of Economics website.