Covid-19 is pegged to cost the global economy whopping $11.5 trillion


The Covid-19 is pegged to cost the global economy whopping $11.5 trillion, including $5 trillion to $5.6 trillion in GDP, a latest analysis by experts from the fields of medicine, economics, the environment and conservation, shows.

The paper, authored by 17 experts and published in science , reads that for a century, two new viruses per year have spilled from their natural hosts into humans. And, MERS, SARS, and H1N1 epidemics, the HIV and Covid pandemics testify to their damage.

Compared to the estimated cost of Covid-19, the paper (Ecology and economics for pandemic prevention) claims that spending $260 billion to $270 billion over 10 years would substantially reduce chances of another pandemic on the scale of the current outbreak. This amounts to just 2% of what the current pandemic is expected to cost the world.

“The world may lose at least $5 trillion in GDP in 2020, and the willingness to pay for the lives lost constitutes many additional trillions (of dollars). These costs exclude the rising tally of morbidity, deaths from other causes due to disrupted medical systems, and the loss to society of foregone activities due to social distancing,” the report reads

Experts project the total value of lives lost in three scenarios of Covid-19 mortality — ranging from $2.5 trillion to $10.2 trillion — and estimated that in the most likely scenario, the world would lose $5.9 trillion due to deaths.

In comparison, the gross estimated costs of the actions they propose to prevent zoonotic epidemics total $22 to $31 billion per year. “...Reduced deforestation also has the ancillary benefit of around $4 billion per year in social benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions, so net prevention costs range from $18 to $27 billion per year,” they argue.

The report says that wildlife protection, particularly through enhanced efforts to curb deforestation, regulation of animal trade both of which have brought humans and livestock into greater contact with wildlife, must be prioritised to prevent pathogen transmission.

Tropical forest edges — caused as humans build roads or clear forests for timber and agriculture — are a major launchpad for novel human viruses, the report notes. “...Humans and livestock are more likely to contact wildlife when more than 25% of the original forest cover is lost and such contacts determine risk of disease transmission,” the report remarks.

Pathogen transmission, experts say, depends on the contact rate, the abundance of susceptible humans and livestock, and the abundance of infected wild hosts.

Pointing to under regulated wildlife trade, demand for which causes people to enter forests to collect wildlife for sale, the experts say: “Covid-19 is the huge price society now pays for such encounters with wild species. Wildlife markets and the legal and illegal wildlife trade bring live and dead wild animals into contact with hunters, traders, consumers, and all those involved in this commerce.”

The transit conditions, lack of health screening at import, and warehouses that store animals before and after import are similar to live animal markets, all conducive to spreading diseases, the experts point out, arguing for more regulation.

Also, while pointing out that there’s substantial underreporting of exposure to zoonotic diseases, the experts said correcting this would provide major opportunities for prevention.

Courtesy TOI, Delloite, Bloomberg...