The curtain is rising on a global economic restart as the US is set to ease coronavirus lockdowns in some states in the coming days.
US President Donald Trump announced on Saturday that the states of Texas and Vermont will see certain businesses resume operations on Monday while appropriate social distancing precautions still required. Montana will start lifting restrictions on Friday.
Debates among the president, bipartisan politicians, governors and public health experts over when and how the US could reopen its economy have made the headlines in recent days. While warnings from public health experts and governors may be justified, it is time to face the fact that the clock is ticking on continued lockdowns.
The coronavirus pandemic has become a serious crisis in terms of both public health and economies. According to data by Johns Hopkins University, the total number of infections in the US has risen to more than 750,000. Meanwhile, strict social distancing orders aimed at protecting lives and containing the virus spread have resulted in catastrophic economic damage. With small businesses struggling desperately to stay afloat, there are already an estimated 22 million Americans out of work.
Given the unprecedented economic pressure, it is impossible for the Trump administration to continue the strict stay-at-home rules. Thus, a region-by-region lockdown lift may be the only possible choice, compared to a one-size-fits-all approach.
Of course, the risk of triggering a second wave of infections remains high as states try to restore normal economic activities. And the key to achieving that is ensuring proper precaution measures will be taken to minimize risks. For instance, sufficient testing will still be essential to track infections, and contact tracing is also necessary to determine who should be quarantined in a timely manner. Should an economic restart cause a resurgence of infections, the US economy could be hit even harder. The next month or two will be crucial as it remains to be seen whether or not the country can really return to normalcy, which will largely hinge on the effectiveness of its follow-up precautions.
The question of when to relax strict social distancing rules is inescapable for any country caught in the coronavirus spread unless the pandemic is completely eradicated. No one knows how long it will take for us to see such an outcome. Countries that have imposed similar stay-at-home orders will all have to reopen their economies without a 100 percent guarantee of public health security.
In fact, some European countries like Switzerland, Norway, Poland, Denmark and Germany are also poised to ease their lockdowns soon.
It is actually a good sign that the US and EU countries are all moving toward the same direction of reviving the global economy, which needs more than just China’s recovery. Only when the world’s two largest economies are working to restore normal economic activities, followed by others, can the world economy get back on track.