Nothing hurts economy more than epidemics

Cheming Yang

When we talked about the impact of epidemics on economy, the most frequently cited example would be the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic in 2003. Almost 14 years have passed since SARS, many young people around 20 years old cannot even recall this experience. But there is no lack of new incident. The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) epidemic in South Korea last year is an economic disaster for real.
In 2015, South Korea was hit by a MERS outbreak. It has been estimated that a total of 186 cases, including 36 deaths, have been associated with the outbreak. There were massive cancellations of flights and hotels in June and July. According to the survey by the Korea Culture & Tourism Institute (KCTI), the combined sales by private tour operators and travel agencies fell 6 percent in 2015 from the previous year.
The horror does not end with the MERS outbreak in South Korea. The 2016 Summer Olympics has concluded quite successfully not long ago. But as you might recall, before the opening ceremony, the Zika epidemic loomed in the background and there were talks suggesting cancellation of the whole game if the outbreak escalated out of control in Brazil.
Ebola outbreak in Africa has been another very recent humanitarian disaster caused by infectious diseases. The Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) related to Ebola in West Africa was finally lifted on 29 March 2016. A total of 28,616 confirmed, probable and suspected cases have been reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with 11,310 deaths.The impact on economy is definitely palpable. For instance, in the March of 2015, Sierra Leone has been shut down for three days in a bid to stop a surge in cases of Ebola. The government ordered everybody to stay at home for three consecutive days in an effort to halt the spread of the disease. It will definitely dent the GDP for any given country to be placed on hold for three days.
In the wake of the Ebola outbreak, African countries have come to grasp with the concept of the importance of concerted actions in the continent to thwart the spread of infectious diseases. This awareness finally gave birth to the Africa CDC (Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention). What is worth noting so far is that China and the US are willing to work hand in hand in support of the development of this baby CDC. With the expansion of globalization, infectious diseases respect no border and all the continents are tightly intertwined in the fight against epidemics. It is only fitting for the world’s two largest economies to join hand in hand in supporting the poorest continent’s effort in this fight for the sake of preventing astronomical economic losses incurred by global epidemics.


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