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After Covid struck, PM took call to save lives first, economy later: Piyush Goyal

The decision was aided by studying past global pandemics and their responses by countries and their consequences, he said.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi |
March 11, 2021 2:13:19 am
Piyush Goyal, airbus, airbus manufacturing, airbus manufacturing planes in india, indian express newsPiyush Goyal.

WHEN THE Covid-19 pandemic hit India last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to prioritise saving lives over the economy, Union Minister Piyush Goyal said on Wednesday.

The decision was aided by studying past global pandemics and their responses by countries and their consequences, he said.

“Very early into the pandemic, the PM took the call that the first priority should be to save lives and worry about the economy later. Because if you save lives, you save livelihoods. That’s why he said jaan hai toh jahaan hai,” Goyal told reporters.

He said the PM told him that in the history of pandemics, studies on the various global responses showed that saving lives by stopping the spread of the disease first went a long way in the bouncing back of the economy. “Studies showed that in the Spanish flu of 1918, for instance, US states which stopped the spread of the infection first moved faster towards economic recovery afterwards. Those that tried to save the economy first, could neither save lives nor the economy,” he said.

One of the studies the government perused was “Pandemics Depress the Economy, Public Health Interventions Do Not: Evidence from the 1918 Flu” by Sergio Correia, Stephan Luck, and Emil Verner published in the US in early 2020 in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. It said that during the Spanish Flu non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), like wearing masks, closure of schools, limiting public gatherings, social distancing, staggered opening of businesses etc reduced mortality rate significantly and flattened the curve in the US. “Our findings indicate that NPIs can reduce disease transmission without necessarily further depressing economic activity,” it said.

It said early and aggressive NPIs – measures undertaken right after the flu arrived in a location – led to around 50per cent reductions in peak mortality or flattening the curve.

It studied 43 major US cities and concluded that the cities which aggressively implemented NPI measures during the pandemic did not see large decline in economic activity after the pandemic with reference to cities that implemented lenient NPIs.

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