Daniel Gros, ki je sicer dokaj “nemški” v svojih pogledih na ekonomske politike, ima tokrat zelo dober predlog. Predlaga, da se na ravni EU izvedejo pan-evropski testi za COVID-19, ki bodo standardizirani in izvedeni na reprezentativnih vzorcih gospodinjstev. Le na ta način je mogoče ugotoviti, kako razširjen je koromavirus in kakšne učinke ima.
The numbers of infected, those in hospital care and those who have died are known with reasonable accuracy. But little is known about the prevalence of the virus today. Many of those infected show no symptoms (so-called asymptomatic cases). They are not counted in the official figures. Many with light symptoms, which make it likely – but not certain – that infection with the coronavirus has occurred, are not tested today because not enough test kits exist (and qualified personnel to implement them are scarce as well). They also do not appear in the statistics. This means that it is not possible to know whether there is still time to implement a suppression strategy. Scientist must hedge their advice as they do not have a good picture of the situation.
Unless something is done rapidly, the problem will persist and prolong policy uncertainty. Later it will also make agreement on an exit strategy impossible. The European economy will only be able to function fully again when border controls are lifted. But his can happen only if there are reliable cross-country data on the number of infected (and maybe those already immune).
The increasingly draconian measures that European governments have put in place to control the spread of COVID-19 have been taken without reliable information on the true spread of the disease. This column argues that it would be possible to quickly organise an EU-wide survey test of a representative sample of the entire population using an existing panel of European households. This would yield key data on the spread of the disease, for example by showing whether suppression is still possible. Having reliable data which are comparable across countries would also be indispensable for any exit strategy from the internal border controls which have proliferated as the crisis spread.
It should be possible to organise this first EU-wide test within the next few weeks. The first wave will not be perfect, nor complete. But it could be repeated once every month to produce the first really representative results and comparable data. Data which member state should trust, because it has been collected in a uniform way.
Testing is of course not a panacea, but the investment in such an effort today would not consume a large part of the scarce medical resources which are obviously needed now to fight the emergency. Without these data, European policymakers will continue to fight the virus blindfolded.
Vir: Daniel Gros, VoxEU