“Governments will not be able to minimise both deaths from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the economic impact of viral spread.” [Anderson et al.]
It is easy to see that the economies of the world are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Share-markets have tumbled. Airlines are flying empty. Except for bizarre panic buying of toilet paper, malls and shops are more deserted. And if you have an employer with a large cash reserve and a bit of heart, you will be OK. There are many companies, however, that are at the margins and they are already failing because of the impact of COVID-19. Households are hunkering down: not spending, not going out.
These are the consequences of containment.
Now think about the daily wagers and piece workers, the sex workers, couriers, garbage pickers, rickshaw drivers and maids. Who will pay their bills, put food on their tables and ensure the same for their children?
Workplaces are instituting attendance rules based on health guidelines. Fevers, coughs, headaches and myalgia? Stay home! Recently been with someone who tested positive. Stay home! Etcetera. That’s fine for me. I will apply for sick leave. In all countries, but disproportionately in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, large numbers of people in the workforce are in the informal sector. They are vulnerable. Even in the formal sector, many workers have no financial protection.
Think again about the daily wagers and piece workers, the sex workers and couriers. Their capacity to pay the bills and keep food on the table is proportional to their capacity to keep working. No matter what.
Death is not everything.
The obligation of countries who have committed to sustainable development goals is to “leave no one behind”. Governments should implement their public health measures to limit the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the poor should not have to carry an unfair burden.