Jonathan Gruber: I don't know how much longer folks will be responding well
April 18, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the lives of people around the world. In different parts of our planet, authorities and citizens perceive the threat of a pandemic and the economic consequences of prolonged quarantine differently. Professor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Jonathan Gruber, who was the director of the health program at the US National Bureau of Economic Research, spoke with Wikinews about his vision of the current situation. In an interview with Roman Balabin, Mr. Gruber, as editor of the scientific journal «Journal of Health Economics» and co-author of the medical program of US President Barack Obama «Obamacare», evaluated the activities of governments in combating the epidemic and the prospects of COVID-19.
Roman Balabin: Did you foresee the possibility of such kind of world epidemic? Has the professional community discussed the likelihood of appearance of a new viral infection — and its consequence?
Jonathan Gruber: I think we all thought it MIGHT come, and paid a lot of lip service to being prepared, but too few of us had it high on our priority list — shorter term things kept taking our focus.
RB: What contribution does the panic make to the current situation? Is the general population responding adequately: healthy and sick people?
JG: Generally folks are responding well, but I don’t know how much longer they will do so.
RB: How do you rate the reaction of world governments (and US states) to the first cases of infection? How do you see the relationship between the medical and economic component of the Covid-19 problem?
JG: The reaction was generally too slow, but there was a lot of variation. Asian nations did the best, and the U.S. federal government did the worst among developed nations.
RB: How much has the load on the healthcare system already grown (and will still grow) — in the US and in the world? Is it possible to estimate the share of GDP that needs to be spent to support hospitals in developed and developing countries?
JG: Health care providers in the U.S. are caught in a dangerous «scissors» — they are losing money from reduced elective surgery and also overwhelmed with COVID-19 costs. The best estimates for the US are that the COVID-19 part will be between 7 % and 33 %of total hospital costs.
RB: Are strict quarantine measures necessary? Should they be applied to the entire population, or only to individual «risk groups»: the elderly, people with systemic disorders, etc.?
JG: Strict quarantine is necessary initially. But the key point is that even when this ends, life cannot go back to normal. Social distancing and other restrictions need to be in place until a vaccine is in wide use.
RB: Can you guess when this pandemic will end? Will this crisis change current healthcare policies in the US and/or in the world?
JG: The pandemic will end when everyone is vaccinated. I am fairly optimistic that we will see a vaccine within a year, and then it will take a few months to get everyone vaccinated.
- Jonathan Gruber An enormous surge in uninsured sick people is coming. Here’s how to pay for them (англ.). Washington Post (30 March 2020). Проверено 14 апреля 2020.
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