Countries across the globe are changing economic policy to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Today’s emergency response will specifically impact the world’s aged, and how people will age in the future. For example, the International Monetary Fund reports that in Jordan, as of March 23, the country is allocating 50 percent of its maternity insurance revenues (JD 16 million) to material assistance for the elderly and the sick. As of April 2, Mexico is advancing pension plans to the elderly. Hong Kong offered 1.3 billion dollars for vulnerable populations, including programs targeting the elderly.
These responses are coming at great cost in all countries. As of March 26, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicted a decrease in GDP of at least 15% for the majority of the world’s largest developed countries. Higher- income countries like the United States are feeling institutional impacts of the coronavirus, without clear future standards yet in place. Some hospitals in the United States opted out of offering elective surgeries, and are now feeling the monetary impact of that decision. At a time when staff is needed, hospital funding sources are questionable.
LeadingAge recently educated its provider network on the U.S. “Paycheck Protection Program” to maintain and restore payroll for health care workers throughout the pandemic. Without care workers, there is no care. But in the fog of crisis, immediate responses from localities are being made sooner without considering than long-term policy issues.
Regardless of any country’s wealth, every city has its rich and poor. Many wealthier parts of cities can rely on digital solutions for social distancing in a way that those without access to basic needs cannot. COVID-19 knows no class system, so countries are developing policies to find relief for the majority of citizens, like suspending rent payments. Bratislava, Slovakia, developed a free phone line for seniors to access their basic needs like food and medication. Lima, Peru, has a voluntary register for elders and a program for bonus income. Yokohama, Japan, distributed 500,000 free face masks to elder care institutions.
With cities in higher income countries strapped, how can we put in perspective what that looks like for countries who entered the crisis without the same capital?
Oxfam highlights that while developed countries’ health systems are overwhelmed, low-income countries’ systems are devastated. Italy has one doctor for every 243 people. Compare that to Zambia’s one doctor for every 10,000 people. In refugee camps globally, there is one doctor for an estimated 25,000 people. Mali has 3 ventilators for every million people. Oxfam released a report suggesting solutions for how the globe should react to build a long-term worldwide response. Oxfam recommends doubling funding to 85 of the world’s poorest countries. That funding could hire 10 million workers, affecting the health of 3.7 billion people. We know how quickly the COVID-19 virus spreads, so preventing coronavirus in 3.7 billion people can change world history.
Asking high-income countries for aid in a time of severe economic downturn may seem impossible. However, recontamination after travel bans are lifted seems worse. One country’s inequitable health care system is another country’s second wave contamination. The World Economic Forum suggests forgiving country debt in combination with Oxfam’s aid proposal. It also suggests that nations must follow Spain’s lead and requisite items from private health care centers. Free testing and treatment must be made immediately to all. The World Economic Forum says that these solutions are doable: “One hundred and sixty billion dollars sounds like a lot. It’s entirely possible. It’s less than 10% of the U.S. fiscal stimulus to tackle coronavirus.”
While nations around the globe seek a clear way forward, there are solid policy recommendations that should be implemented on both local action and international scales. If you have suggestions, please email your innovative global policy recommendations to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Beth Brodsky
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