Published in El Pais, 28 March 2020.
I am scared and fascinated at the same time during this corona virus crisis. On one hand I am afraid of everybody’s health, on the state of the economy and on the other hand I am curious and intrigued by how countries deal with this outbreak and wonder what is the best thing to do.
Bolivia opted from a very early stage to close the frontiers, stopped people transport and put a curfew with only a few exceptions. I must admit that when I first read these measures, I thought it was a complete over exaggeration. Thinking about more serious I must agree with it. Although it is probably a huge sacrifice of the economy it is probably the only scenario that the Bolivian economy and society can deal with. If Bolivia would have taken it as light as several European countries did, they would already have had many more cases and consequently likely more deaths. Bolivia’s and other country’s health systems simply don’t have the capacity to deal with so many intensive care patients. So, this is a good strategy if you want to save lives and have limited medical resources but bringing a whole economy to a squeaky stop can be very expensive.
Health systems all over the world have limited resources and its limitations must be considered when defining the strategy to deal with the corona outbreak. Therefore, Bolivia cannot afford that the outbreak reaches Italian levels and needs to take very severe measure in a very early stage. Question remains to what extend are we willing to burn up our economy and the countries’ reserves to save lives? How long can Bolivia paralyze the economy? People will have to get back to work at one moment to gain money to buy their daily needs. In developed countries governments with very deep pockets are compensating workers for the missed incomes but also there at one moment people need to get back to work, no matter what the situation is.
Maybe an ironic advantage is that the Bolivians are experienced with full stop economies. They have had their share of social and political conflicts in the past that also paralyzed the economy and made it hard for people and companies to work. Maybe this experience can be of help during this outbreak lockdown. The most important aspect is that we all will need to work together and help each other to get through this outbreak.