Extending lockdown causes even greater damage to the economy

Het Parool, AD
Erasmus School of Economics

According to Bas Jacobs, Professor of Public Economics at Erasmus School of Economics, the extension of the lockdown will cause even greater damage to the economy. At the same time, the effects of the lockdown are negligible. ‘The longer the measures will stay in place, the greater the economic damage will be,' says Jacobs in an interview with Dutch newspapers Het Parool and AD. According to him, it is time for a new approach.

No clear strategy

‘The consequences of the current lockdown were already bad. Extending the lockdown only exacerbates the problem,' says Jacobs. ‘Extending the lockdown will cause more companies to run into problems, more people to become unemployed, the self-employed to receive even fewer jobs and students to fall behind in their education. In addition, the social and psychological pressure in society continues to grow. We can only hope that such consequences will have an impact on the decisions the will government make,' says Jacobs.

Jacobs is not very hopeful in this, however. ‘The government has no clear strategy, other than monitoring problems in hospitals. I would like the government to clarify how it weighs problems in the healthcare sector against problems in the economy, against unequal educational opportunities, breaches of fundamental rights and restrictions on people's freedoms to trade, travel, play sports, recreate and engage in social activities.' Jacobs wonders where the priority lies. If controlling the problems in the healthcare sector is the only benchmark, then all other problems carry no weight, and this cannot be the intention, according to Jacobs.

A more balanced policy

Jacobs therefore believes it is time for a more balanced corona policy. ‘The current harsh measures and waiting for vaccines to take effect, in the hope that they will suppress the virus, are extremely damaging in economic terms. Lockdowns destroy things we do not know can be repaired. A better strategy is to provide more protection for vulnerable people who are more likely to become ill and to give stronger people more freedom to build immunity. For example, open shops exclusively for vulnerable people for a few hours. Or provide housing elsewhere for people who do not have a lot of living spare and are infected so that they do not infect their entire family.’

Jacobs also explains how rapid testing could reopen schools, restaurants and theatres. ‘This would allow us to restart society much more quickly, with limited risks to public health. The government does differentiate its policy for the administration of vaccines: care workers and nursing home residents first. And rightly so. But when it comes to the economy, differentiation seems to be out of the question.’ According to Jacobs, it is also clear that shutting down the economy is working less and less well. ‘The number of infections is not dropping significantly while this lockdown is stricter than the first. Is it useful then to continuously take stricter measures that are doing more and more damage to the economy and social life?’

More information

The full article from Het Parool, 11 January 2021, and AD, 14 January 2021, can be downloaded above (in Dutch). 

Or listen to Jacobs' interview with BNR Nieuwsradio about the effects of the lockdown here (in Dutch).