Corona pandemic: Golden middle way between health and economy determined

Corona pandemic: Golden middle way between health and economy determined

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Business and health go hand in hand

The global economy is experiencing severe cuts during the corona virus pandemic. Many people have the impression that measures to protect public health are in direct conflict with economic interests. The joint study of a medical and an economic institution has now shown that the containment measures serve not only to protect health, but also to protect the economy.

The Helmholtz Center for Infection Research (HZI) and the Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich e.V. (ifo) showed in a joint research project that rapid easing does not necessarily mean a quick recovery of the economy. If the measures are shut down too quickly, the damage and recovery time could be far greater than with a "prudent, gradual opening process". The research work can be viewed on the Ifo website.

Economic institute warns of quick easing

"The strategy of prudent, gradual easing is not only preferable in terms of health policy, but also economically," emphasize Ifo President Clemens Fuest and Michael Meyer-Hermann, head of the System Immunology department at the HZI. In a joint simulation analysis, the two institutions showed that a short-term increase in economic activity is likely to lead to an overall extension of the restrictions. This would increase the overall cost of the crisis.

Quick relaxation = quick recovery?

The first-ever rapprochement between an economic and a medical institute contradicts the widespread view that the containment measures imposed above all harm the economy. "It is not true that a very rapid easing brings economic benefits and therefore a conflict with health policy goals arises," explain the research leaders. The analysis showed that the interests of health and business are not contradictory, but common.

300 new infections per day are feasible

The researchers estimate that around 300 new COVID-19 infections per day can be traced back by the health authorities. With the simultaneous expansion of test capacities and more personnel for the detection, infection chains could be prevented in this way without significant contact restrictions.

Economic damage is linked to the number of reproductions

The research team developed a model that linked the economic damage to the number of reproductive coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The number of reproductions (R) indicates how many people infect an infected person. At R = 1.0, a sick person infects exactly one more in the course of the illness, at R = 2.0 two more.

Calculate the golden middle ground

On April 20, 2020, R was reduced to 0.627. The researchers calculated that a total loss of around 333 billion euros would result in the course of 2020 and 2021 if this contagion number is maintained. With slight easing, where R levels off to 0.75, the loss could be reduced by about 26 billion euros.

Further easing up to R = 0.9 would not result in any noticeable improvements for the economy, but the total deaths associated with COVID-19 would increase according to the model. According to the study, if R rises above 1.0, this is associated with both greater economic damage and more deaths. From R = 1.0, an additional 20,000 deaths are expected by the end of 2021.

Measures that are too strong harm the economy

The model also showed that severe restrictions result in larger economic costs. If the number of reproductions is reduced to 0.5 by measures, the economic damage would increase by 77 billion euros.

The golden mean appears to be R = 0.75

The study shows for the first time that health and economic interests are not contradictory, but go hand in hand. While slight easing leads to less economic damage, the researchers believe that extensive measures are not to be recommended either from a health or an economic point of view. The golden middle ground between health and economy seems to be R = 0.75.

Limitations of the study

The virologist Professor Dr. Christian Drosten commented on the study in his NDR coronavirus podcast. He points out that many assumptions have been made in the model that represent the reality coarsely. Due to the lack of empirical data and empirical values ​​from the economy, this is also not possible.

Drosten and the authors of the study concede that the value of R = 0.75 does not have to be exactly right. Nevertheless, the study shows impressively that the economy and health should not be viewed in opposition, but rather together, and that the goals for the containment of SARS-CoV-2 are of economic as well as health-political interest. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Meyer-Hermann, Michael; Dorn, Florian; Khailaie, Sahamoddin; u.a .: The common interest of health and economy: A scenario calculation to contain the corona pandemic; ifo Institute, Munich, 2020,
  • Ifo: Infection researchers for limited, gradual openings (published: May 13, 2020),
  • NDR: Coronavirus update (41) with Christian Drosten (published: May 14, 2020),

Video: Covid-19: how it will change the world. The Economist (July 2022).


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