Health and Economic Risk: Social Distancing as a Health Risk Management ToolHealth and Economic Risk: Social Distancing as a Health Risk Management Tool

Social distancing measures propagated by health experts and belatedly by governments worldwide as a means of health risk minimizer, are yet to unfold their full impact on health risk management caused by the COVID-19. Nevertheless, social distancing poses a high risk to the economic and social life of affected communities globally. Fears of a global economic slowdown have dominated discussions amongst the public, experts of different disciplines, politicians, entrepreneurs, and others.

What is at stake while implementing social distancing?

Social distancing has slowed income generation among the majority of economic sectors. Consumption and production of certain goods have dropped to the lowest level, while online business models have prevailed to be a necessity for entrepreneurs and employees. Minimal social interaction reduced to digital communication via Skype, Zoom, Facetime, and other social media outlets. The minimum of 1.5 Meters of social distance between individuals in public space puts the society on a psychological test. This amount of economic, social, and psychological pressure seems to cause an explosion of both optimism and pessimism toward the social distancing measures. Differences in reactions are visible amongst different interest groups. Some interest groups are also pleading for ease of social distancing measures. Contrary to those special interest groups, health experts, practitioners, nurses, caretakers, and the health sector, in general, pleads for tight implementation of the social distancing measures.

Fears about the macroeconomic implications additionally add more pressure to efforts of minimizing unemployment, inflation, and global trade dependencies while maximizing investment, private, as well as public spending. Several pandemic-simulation-models oppose the ideal of seeking a quick opening of economic and social life at the cost of unprecedented health risks.

What is riskier? Health Risk or Economic Risk?

Before making a judgment on whether the health risk or economic risk is riskier than the other, we should seek prudent wisdom. Decisions to be made will need high ethical standards and a balance between exposure to health risk and economic risk. Measures proposed to open economic and social life around the world are disregarding the current health optimization goals at the cost of uncertain short-term economic and social gains. The long-term economic and social impact should be the driving force behind any adjustments to the social distancing measures. Nevertheless, society should not neglect the importance of a democratic decision mechanism. Acceptance of social distancing may depend on the decision mechanisms put in place to safeguard the social, economic, political, technological, ethical, and ecological interests of all members of the society.

We are in a learning process of how globalization works and could work.

The global lockdown of borders, trade, tourism, and mobility of people, reveals the vulnerability of our conjoint societies in different aspects. Dependencies on global supply chains, consumption, and mobility have become visible. Large developed economies depending on emerging economies to facilitate their health centers with respiratory machines. Member countries of the European Union closing their borders amid the Corona-Pandemic, which is contrary to the Schengen treaty of 14 June 1985. Developed countries chartered airlines to bring back their citizens from emerging and developing countries. These issues, among many, pose global risks to world democracy, if not dealt with on due time. After the pandemic, the world will have a lot to repair, adjust, and negotiate. Does a global democracy exist?