COVID-19

Articles and publications written by the CCC about the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.

Hidden Dangers of Nannying Revealed by Pandemic

One of the fundamental questions raised by the pandemic is whether individuals can be entrusted to follow social distancing rules voluntarily or whether government force is necessary to accomplish that end. Most governments have channelled the latter assumption in the fight against COVID-19. After years of ratcheting our lifestyle of freedoms, that doesn’t come as a surprise.

From cannabis to tobacco and sugar consumption, lifestyle regulations infantilise consumers by “nudging” them toward what some government officials believe is best for them. The psychology behind such an approach is straightforward: if we continuously tell somebody they are incapable of choosing for themselves, they eventually come to believe it. Nannying consumers from A to Z and then all of a sudden expecting them to skip a Thursday pub night for the sake of social distancing is inconsistent, to say the least.

There are of course some good intentions behind various lifestyle regulations. Tobacco plain packaging and taxes, for instance, are meant to deter consumers because of both look and price. The plain packaging of sweets, crisps and sugary drinks is intended to drive down our consumption of sugar. Thus, branding bans are seen as a major tool by some in public health. But these measures beg two questions. First, do they have any propensity for success? Second, in light of the pandemic, can we afford to diminish the culture of individual responsibility through paternalism?

We know plain packaging doesn’t work. In 2012, Australia passed a nationwide plain packaging decree on all tobacco products. The goal was to reduce smoking rates. During the first years of the ban, more young people took up smoking. The smoking rates among Australians in the age range of 12-24-year-olds increased from 12 per cent in 2012 to 16 per cent in 2013, whereas it had been declining naturally in the years prior. Little or no improvement was made among people aged 30 or older between 2013 and 2016.

People aged 40–49 continued to be the age group most likely to smoke daily (16.9%) and the smoking rates among this age group went up from 16.2% in 2013. At the same time, Australia has seen an enormous increase in roll-your-own cigarettes: 26% in 2007, to 33% in 2013 and to 36% in 2016.

Consumers should have access to all the information they can get about products and then, crucially, have the freedom to decide for themselves. Branding bans block their access to information about the products they buy and consume. Information is dispersed through branding, and therefore branding bans remove that possibility.

We need individual responsibility more than ever. Our fast-developing and incredibly interconnected world is likely to face more pandemics, and we should be prepared as individuals. The line between collective responsibility — to socially distance for example — and individual responsibility is a thin one. The consequences of the former might affect other people, while the latter concerns only us as individuals.

When we choose to consume sugar, we are the ones responsible for the repercussions and we should be encouraged to bear that responsibility. Going out and shaking hands knowing that we have symptoms of COVID-19 puts at risk other people while staying at home limits our personal freedom. It is only through individual responsibility that we can learn to be socially responsible.

Paternalism destroys our ability to choose for ourselves and be burdened with the consequences. In the case of a pandemic, our failure to exercise our responsibility and sensibility leads to a collective failure and provides a ground for government force, lockdowns and all sorts of questionable interventions.

Ideally, aware of their responsibility and risks, each and every person could have voluntarily chosen to self-isolate, as many people did. But how can we expect individuals to follow public health decrees if we know some of them are ineffective?

First, governments paternalise us through branding bans and other nudges, and then they want us to act responsibly when the pandemic kicks in. This has to change, and we should encourage individual freedom followed by responsibility instead of infantilising consumers.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

LES DÉCÈS DE LA CRISE ÉCONOMIQUE SERONT-ILS IGNORÉS?

On aime à opposer les deux côtés de ce choix binaire : défendre l’économie mondiale ou la vie humaine – or c’est une absurdité… dangereuse.

« Restez chez vous, sauvez des vies ! » – tel est le mantra répété par la classe politique, les médias et les réseaux sociaux. La peur du coronavirus a amené les citoyens à une justification d’un pouvoir accru donné à l’Etat, et provoqué une méfiance généralisée entre les personnes.

La police pénalise ceux qui se déplacent pour « des raisons non-essentielles » et des voisins appellent la police pour dénoncer ceux qui font du sport. Les dégâts sur notre tissu social seront eux aussi un sujet à discuter après cette crise.

Une des idées les plus répandues est celle de protéger des vies au lieu de protéger l’économie (les investisseurs ou les entreprises). Il ne manque plus que le sempiternel « vous ne pouvez pas manger votre argent » comme conclusion philosophique de la pensée du moment.

Au Royaume-Uni, le chroniqueur Toby Young a analysé les données de l’économie locale pour mesurer le véritable impact sur les « vies perdues » lors de cette crise (et celle à venir).

Vies perdues, vies sauvées

Lorsque l’économie se contracte, l’espérance de vie diminue en raison d’une augmentation de la pauvreté, des crimes violents et des suicides. Lors de la crise financière mondiale de 2007-2009, le taux de suicide avait augmenté de 4,8% aux Etats-Unis selon le Centre de contrôle des maladies (CDC), et de 6,5% en Europe selon l’Organisation mondiale de la santé.

Philip Thomas, professeur de gestion des risques à l’université de Bristol, a calculé que si le PIB du Royaume-Uni chute de plus de 6,4% par personne à la suite du confinement obligatoire, il y aura plus d’années de vie perdues que d’années de vie sauvées, en se basant sur les estimations du Dr Ferguson.

Le professeur Thomas souligne que le PIB par habitant a chuté de 6% au Royaume-Uni lors du krach financier de 2007-2009 – or de nombreux économistes prédisent que l’impact négatif du confinement obligatoire sera au moins deux fois plus important.

Il conclut :

« Le défi pour le gouvernement britannique sera de gérer ses interventions de manière à ce que l’inévitable récession imminente ne soit pas aussi grave que le krach financier de 2007-2009. »

Il convient donc de s’assurer que le remède ne soit pas pire que le virus.

Mauvaises conclusions

Cependant, cette réflexion est actuellement politiquement incorrecte. On nous demande de mettre nos vies en suspens et de pousser l’économie mondiale dans une récession mortelle sous peine d’être coupable de collaboration avec le virus. Ceux qui s’opposent au confinement obligatoire seront décrits comme des brutes sans cœur.

Pire encore sont ceux qui utilisent cette crise pour argumenter en faveur des pires politiques totalitaires, dont le socialiste Thomas Porcher, qui propose un large programme de nationalisation de grandes entreprises, comme si les fondamentaux économiques n’avaient plus cours en cette période.

Pour les ONG d’extrême-gauche comme les Amis de la Terre, c’est un renouveau complet de l’économie qui est désirable. Ils accusent même le système économique mondialisé d’être à l’origine de la crise sanitaire.

Assez ironiquement, on peut considérer que c’est l’inverse : cette crise a débuté par le manque de transparence d’une régime communiste totalitaire et la surrèglementation du secteur de la médecine. Les industries prêtes à aider le personnel médical sont confrontées aux normes étatiques les empêchant de produire du matériel d’urgence.

Au niveau des traitements, nous voyons que les pays possédant une mixité importante entre hôpitaux privés et publics se débrouillent mieux que ceux qui ont tout misé sur la suppression du secteur privé.

Les victimes du krach seront-elles ignorées ? Oui.

Pire encore, les Etats en tireront les mauvaises conclusions. Suite à la crise du Covid-19, nous allons nous retrouver avec moins de libertés individuelles, moins d’argent et un contrôle accru de la part de l’Etat.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Ban on cigarettes during MCO strengthened black market: Survey

The ban on cigarette sales during the MCO has increased the sale of contraband products which could have been averted, says industry player.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 6, 2020 — A blanket cigarettes sale ban during the Movement control order (MCO) gave the black market for tobacco a boost.

This is what a public opinion poll shows. It says a majority of Malaysians believe the cigarettes sale ban was negative.

The latest Asia Pacific survey saw over 1000 adults responding in Malaysia. It was commissioned by the advocacy group, the Consumer Choice Center (CCC).

The leading independent polling company, Populus was responsible for the fieldwork. It found that:

  • Eight out of ten Malaysian adults (80%) agrees that people would defy a ban on tobacco sale during a lockdown. They would go to great length to get the products.
  • Almost three-quarters of all respondents (72%, and 78% of smokers) agrees that people would continue to purchase tobacco products, but that sales would shift to black/illegal markets.
  • Unsurprisingly, most Malaysians (58%) thought a restriction would encourage people to quit.
  • 71% agrees that prohibition could increase the spread of coronavirus. They say the illegal sale of products that do not meet safety standards in distribution is risky.
  • the spread of Coronavirus through the sale of illegal products that do not meet safety standards in distribution.

Fred Roeder, Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center says,“Our research clearly shows that people will still smoke and will likely go to great lengths to find alternative supply whenever theirs runs dry.

“Under restrictive MCO measures, encouraging unnecessary movement put lives at risk by increasing the chances of contracting and transmitting Covid-19.”

Roeder says the MCO caused a disruption in the distribution of legal cigarettes.

This resulted in an explosion of illicit cigarette trade, as highlighted by the relevant authorities in recent news reports.”

The vast majority of respondents (72%) say the ban on the sale of tobacco diverts vital resources from combatting Covid-19. They cite the increase in enforcement cost and time.

“Malaysian enforcement authorities have recently expended plenty of resources to counter illicit trade. There were roadblocks and thorough checks on food couriers and e-hailing service providers.

Nevertheless, this was the cause of unnecessary delays in an already difficult situation,” explains Roeder.

“While the initiative to encourage people to stop smoking during MCO is well-intentioned, it was a failure. Instead, this move has enriched transnational criminal syndicates and corrupt facilitators while reinforcing the endemic presence of illegal cigarettes in Malaysia,” he says.

“As Malaysia enters the phase of conditional MCO, the resumption of normal sales by legitimate players may not be enough to break the stranglehold on the market that illicit traders have gained over the last one-and-a-half months.”

He says there is a need for more effort, be it through bold policies and stricter enforcement to control this scourge effectively.

CCC conducted the survey in five countries in the Asia Pacific region including Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines and South Korea.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

The folly of opposing patents on a Covid vaccine

The folly of opposing patents on a Covid vaccine

Doctors Without Borders does incredible work in the interest of patients around the globe. It has an exemplary track record of bringing doctors to the front lines of combat zones, famines, and pandemics — helping those patients that are left alone and victims of large crises.

During the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, MSF (to use its French acronym) was the leading organisation fighting for patients — far more so than the World Health Organization, which is bureaucratic and has slow response times. For that and its previous 48 years of service, it needs to be applauded.

However, its current opposition to patents on drugs treating Covid-19 misunderstands the importance of intellectual property rights for medical innovation.

MSF is also running a campaign on access to medicines which distorts the realities of the drug market, while calling for solutions that would harm scientific innovation. The “Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines” wants to increase the availability of medicines in developing nations by addressing drug pricing and intellectual property rights. In the eyes of MSF, producers and researchers are enriching themselves off the backs of those who can least afford it.

What MSF gets wrong is that intellectual property rights and patents do not hinder innovation but actually enable medical progress.

Dozens of pharmaceutical companies have not only started searching for a vaccine against Covid-19 but have also thrown a lot of resources into getting millions of tests produced, looking at what existing drugs might be able to treat the disease, and donating money and materials to health systems across the world.

In fact, the philanthropic efforts of pharmaceutical companies are impressively underreported. By any standard, these companies are offering charitable support, including to organisations working with patients on the ground. However, Doctors Without Borders has said that it will not accept in-kind donations of drugs from pharmaceutical companies, but instead purchase them at market prices. Donors to MSF would probably be stunned by the idea that their donations are spent on drugs that MSF could have got for free.

While the industry also cares about access a lot, dysfunctional health systems and infrastructure are often the barrier between a patient and a treatment or vaccine. We need to realise that charitable acts are only possible if profits are also encouraged. Pharmaceutical companies develop drugs, protect their inventions and make profits. If you cut out patent rights from the equation, the incentive to innovate disappears, and life-saving medicines that cost billions to develop will stay off the market.

Doctors without Borders calls for preventing drug profiteering on the novel coronavirus, while ignoring the significant donations being made to help stop this virus. In fact, most efforts to combat the disease are public-private partnerships, much like the fight against Ebola was.

Remember too that stopping companies making a profit from drugs both eliminates incentives and ignores both the risks and the costs of working on a new drug. Who are we to tell lab workers to come into work every day for free, when there are risks associated with going to work and interacting with fellow employees?

The idea of so-called compulsory licenses, which de facto takes a patent away from a manufacturer in one country and gives it to another, might even delay the introduction of a Covid-19 vaccine even more. It takes know how and supply chains to manufacture and deliver a working vaccine. It is questionable whether a vaccine produced under compulsory licensing would actually be less expensive than the original one.

Much can be said about drug manufacturing and access to essential medicines. But a proper debate needs to be held on the basis of certain basic facts. Among these is that pharmaceutical companies invest vast sums of money to provide life-saving medicines, and those same companies have also taken action to help those in the most need. With Covid-19, we are facing one of the biggest public health crises ever – Innovation and medical breakthroughs are needed now more than ever. Undermining the ownership of innovations will definitely not lead to the breakthroughs that will ultimately get us out of this nightmare.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

“Die Schuldigen nicht in den Skihütten von Ischgl suchen”

Die weltweite Verbraucherorganisation Consumer Choice Center nimmt die Gastwirte im österreichischen Party-Hotspot in Schutz.

Après-Ski im Fokus: Der Gastro in Tirol wird vorgeworfen, zur Corona-Ausbreitung beigetragen zu haben

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

The Covid-19 Response isn’t a Vindication for Socialism

The pandemic is not a crisis of capitalism, if anything it proves we will need free markets more than ever before, argues Joey Simnett

National emergencies are a breeding ground for those who claim it confirms their worldview, who use them to push their own agenda long after the crisis passes. And now, during Covid-19, they once again slither out of the woodwork.

There has been no shortage of state apologists who feel vindicated by this unprecedented event, and wish to keep it this way. Once again our decadent individualist culture and corrupt capitalist system have apparently failed us, and now big government has stepped in to save the day.

BBC Newsnight described Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s rescue package as “embracing Keynesianism”. Professor Mariana Mazzucato posited that we should use this crisis to “think about capitalism differently”, and recent resignee Jeremy Corbyn had a “told you so” moment where he stated he was “right” about public spending.

But this commentary on the government’s countermeasures fundamentally misses the point and the nature of the program.

What has happened with Covid-19 is a truly exogenous (i.e. non-economic) supply side shock. In fact, it behoves the government to actively and explicitly “freeze” the labour force until the crisis passes. And, until it does, it is imperative to maintain the intricate web of market relations that form the economy, as this crisis is not a result of them being inherently rotten.

There is no “crisis of capitalism” or traditional economic recession here; there have been no bad investments, malignant animal spirits, or popped bubbles. There is no need to “right the wrongs of the market” like Keynesians and socialists desire to do, nor has the Chancellor done so.

This is simply a case of governments spending money, as governments of all stripes do. But the key distinction lies in when, how, and why they do so.

The highlight of the Chancellor’s plan is to pay a portion of people’s wages for a period of time. Direct cash transfers are some of the most economically neutral interventions a government can perform. It does not remotely resemble the kind of top-down Soviet economic planning or the grotesque market distortions we’ve witnessed both preceding and proceeding economic crashes.

But, the critics say, we do see mass mobilisation in the production and acquisition of medical equipment under Matt Hancock—surely this demonstrates the effectiveness of government-led planning?

It does in one respect, in the same way conscription was necessary in World War II. But this does not mean it’s a good idea in day-to-day life. Governance involves learning, choices, and trade-offs, which means we shouldn’t forever sit in our bunkers with a rifle aimed at the door in anticipation of all manner of hypothetical events.

Who wants to see our dear comrades at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs decide who produces our food, how much food to produce, and who to give it to on an on-going basis—one brief glimpse at Maoist China suggests that governments are simply incapable of managing such complex and ever-changing economic processes.

But while there’s nothing inherently revolutionary about how our government is functioning, there’s certainly a risk that it could be as soon as Covid-19 is out of the picture.

The horrors of World War II didn’t stop after the flattening of Nagasaki. Rather, an ideological battle emerged between those who wished to return to normalcy, and those who saw merit in a state-led society. It was the darlings of 20th century progressivism, the Attlee government, who pushed to make food rationing and identity cards a permanent feature in day-to-day life.

In fact, it would take nine whole years to finally lay them to rest under Churchill’s second shot as Prime Minister.

Sunak stated that “this is not a time for ideology or orthodoxy”, but given the dramatic shift to the left in both the Conservative and Labour parties in recent years, it may well be once we are all fit and healthy again.

Author: Joey Simnett is a UK policy fellow at the Consumer Choice Center, and has previously written for American physicians on the US healthcare system, and on fiat alternatives in the payments world

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Après le coronavirus, faisons des améliorations à notre cadre législatif

Après des semaines de changements à notre façon de consommer, nous voyons qu’il y a des améliorations importantes à faire, en ce qui concerne nos chaînes d’approvisionnement et les moyens disponibles pour se procurer des produits et services. Profitons de cette phase de lucidité pour faire des changements appropriés.

Plusieurs semaines de confinement nous montrent que tout ne s’est pas
déplacé sur internet et qu’une présence physique est difficilement remplaçable avec une connexion internet. Tout de même, nous voyons aussi qu’il y a raison de se réjouir du fait que cette pandémie nous tombe dessus en 2020 et pas il y a vingt ans. Nous avons la possibilité de rechercher et commander des produits et services, presque sans
aucune nécessité de se déplacer.

Les outils de travail à distance tels que Zoom, Asana ou les outils de Google ont déjà révolutionné le monde du travail. La plupart des réunions peuvent
être converties en appel vidéo. Dans des pays comme le Royaume-Uni, les consommateurs peuvent dire que grâce à des services de livraison de produits alimentaires tels que Amazon Fresh etOcado, nous pouvons constituer une bonne quantité de réserves de conserves, de produits secs et de produits pour la salle de bains, sans même avoir à nous battre pour les
derniers produits dans certains supermarchés presque vides.

Au Luxembourg, où ces services n’existent pas, la question se pose si notre cadre réglementaire n’est pas à l’origine de ce défaut. L’absence de services comme Uber, ou les trottinettes électriques comme Bird, nous indique qu’une législation fautive est à l’origine de cette défaillance. Tant que des villes comme Bruxelles ou Paris bénéficie de l’économie de partage, les restaurateurs et la clientèle luxembour- geoises doivent se contenter de sites web incomplets de restau- rants, et l’HORESCA qui organise un service de livraison à 10 euros par commande (pour ceux qui n’ont pas de service intégré de livraison).

Il s’avère que les applications décentralisées sont mieux préparées pour faire face à des crises et la demande des clients. Un grand changement dans l’approvisionnement de produits et services est celui des médicaments et des services médicaux. Pendant la pandémie, nous voyons l’arrivée des télé-consultations, dont on espère qu’elles ne resteront pas une innovation temporaire. Afin de récupérer leurs ordonnances, les patients ont dû se déplacer en pharmacies — une obligation superflue.

Huit pays dans l’Union européenne donnent le droit à leurs citoyens de commander des médicaments sur ordonnance en ligne : le Royaume-Uni, l’Allemagne, la Suisse, les Pays-Bas, le Danemark, la Suède, la Finlande et l’Estonie. Au Luxembourg, le gouvernement nous informe que “Seuls les médicaments sans ordonnance peuvent être vendus sur internet. Il n’est pas prévu d’autoriser la vente à distance de médicaments sur ordonnance.” Espérons que la crise actuelle donnera la motivation nécessaire aux parlementaires de s’intéresser à une légalisation de ces services.

Au niveau de l’Agence européenne des médicaments (EMA), nous aurions besoin d’un audit pour comprendre pourquoi un fast-tracking des procé-
dures d’approbation n’a pas encore été possible. Dans une situation d’urgence comme celle du coronavirus, il nous faut des recherches efficaces, et une bureau- cratie qui autorise au plus vite les médicaments nécessaires. L’Agence luxembourgeoise des médicaments et des produits de santé (ALMPS) devra fonctionner d’après les mêmes principes : mettre la priorité pour maximiser le nombre de nouveaux médicaments sûrs, en réduisant les obstacles administratifs. En même temps, le Luxembourg doit aussi autoriser et encourager le “droit à l’essai” médical. La loi sur le droit d’essayer ou loi Trickett Wendler, Frank Mongiello, Jordan McLinn et Matthew Bellina, a été promulguée le 30 mai 2018 aux États-Unis. Cette loi est un autre moyen pour les patients chez qui on a diagnostiqué des maladies mortelles, qui ont essayé toutes les options de traitement approuvées et qui ne peuvent pas participer à un essai clinique, d’accéder à certains traitements non approuvés. Les essais cliniques permettent de savoir si un produit est sûr à l’emploi et peut traiter ou prévenir efficacement une maladie. Les personnes peuvent avoir de nom-
breuses raisons de participer à des essais cliniques.

En plus de contribuer aux connaissances médicales, certaines personnes participent à des essais cliniques parce qu’il n’existe aucun traitement pour leur maladie, que les traitements qu’elles ont essayés n’ont pas fonctionné ou qu’elles ne sont pas en mesure de tolérer les traitements actuels.

Au-delà, il faut aussi plus de cybersécurité chez les Luxembourgeois et les entreprises contre les cyberattaques qui se propagent lors de cette pandémie. La sécurité du réseau doit être garantie pour garder l’at-
tractivité de la place financière – pour ce faire, une exclusion de certains acteurs du marché de télécommunication, dont la Chine, ne doit pas être exclue. Et qui dit vie privé, doit aussi garantir une révision de la
Constitution qui met en évidence les idées reçues de cette crise, afin de prévenir encore plus les abus de pouvoir dans des urgences futures.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Five measures that could prevent future lockdowns

That the World Health Organisation hasn’t exactly shone in the coronavirus crisis is now well-documented. It should remind us of the dangers of following one centrally-guided approach to tackling the disease. Thankfully, given how even experts have been unsure about how to respond to this enormous challenge, there was no unified EU response to Covid-19. Instead, European countries have been dealing with the virus using trial and error.

As a result, looking at the responses of European and Asian countries, we can now distinguish five important things that seem to have worked to prevent the need for a strict, economically devastating lockdown.

1. Testing people with mild symptoms

Even though Germany’s first locally transmitted Covid-19 case was before Italy’s, Germany has had almost six times fewer deaths – with a 30 per cent larger population. There are caveats: Germany is lucky that the average age of its Covid patients has been only 49, compared to 62.5 in France and 62 in Italy. And it should also be noted that counting the number of deaths from Covid-19 is anything but straightforward.

But Germany’s testing practices have been singled out by the UK government’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, as key and in the last two weeks, Germany’s curve of infection growth has been flattening.

From the moment it became clear that a Chinese woman – dubbed ‘Case #0’, had visited Bavaria at the end of January, a medical manhunt was launched to trace, test and isolate those she had infected, giving Germany crucial time to prepare. The workplaces of those infected were shut down and all those who tested positive were sent to hospital.

Crucially, testing does not just seem to be about quantity. Last week Italy had conducted 807,000 tests since 21 February, which isn’t that much below Germany’s 1.3 million tests, when compared per capita. But Italy mostly tested people with severe symptoms that were in hospital. Germany also tested those with less severe symptoms and was therefore able to detect clusters of infection much earlier.

It’s important to note as well that German testing wasn’t the result of a conscious government decision but thanks to its many private laboratories. Christian Drosten, Director of the Institute of Virology at Berlin’s Charité Hospital explains that ‘Germany does not have a public health laboratory that would restrict other labs from doing the tests. So we had an open market from the beginning.’ In other words, the private sector elements of Germany’s health care system have played a very important part in its success.

German healthcare policy expert Frederik Roeder, who directs the Consumer Choice Center, highlights how in contrast to the UK, which has a centralised testing system with no room for mistakes, ‘a decentralised and independent system… allows for some parts in the chain to fail and the others still to perform, and crucially allows room for innovation.’ Worryingly, EU regulation will centralise this process from 2022 onwards.

Early, widespread testing was also performed in South Korea, but it was the result of conscious government action. The country has the world’s most expansive and well-organised testing programme, including drive-thru testing stations.

comparison between more than forty European and Asian countries has found a statistical correlation between having a high positive test rate – meaning mainly testing those with severe symptoms – and a high number of deaths per capita. This correlation is especially strong for Spain and France.

2. Sufficient intensive care capacity – enabled by the private sector

The whole point of imposing economically devastating lockdowns was to avoid overburdening the health care system, so people that could otherwise be saved would not have to die. South Korea did not impose lockdowns, while Germany imposed what could be called ‘lockdown light’. It did not order people to stay at home, apart from in Bavaria and Saarland. There was only a recommendation to respect strict social distancing measures, issued on March 22, more than a week later than other European countries like France or Belgium. Public gatherings of more than two people were banned, while restaurants and non-essential shops were shut. But all in all, the restrictions were modest, given that German manufacturers are still running at up to 80 per cent capacity.

The reason that those two countries, which also were successful in curbing the pandemic, were able to avoid the enormously expensive measures imposed elsewhere is that they believed their healthcare systems would be able to cope.

Before the Covid crisis, Germany already had the highest number of intensive care beds per capita in Europe. It then used the time it gained from ‘testing and tracing’ to increase the number of its ICU beds from an estimated 28,000 to more than 40,000. This also enabled German hospitals to take patients from other European countries. Before the crisis Germany had more than four times the intensive care capacity of the NHS.

In Germany and South Korea, the private sector plays an important role in healthcare. In Germany, only 28 per cent of hospitals are government owned. German healthcare economist Frederik Roeder notes that private hospitals in Germany ‘receive the same amount of reimbursement per case as the public ones’ but also have higher investment, which leads to ‘more state-of-the-art treatment and newer medical equipment.’

In South Korea, 80 per cent of people have private health insurance, at an average cost of about $120 per month. Hospitals are able to charge patients more than what the government will refund.

3. Masks or scarves in crowded places

The WHO initially recommended that only medical workers and ill people should wear masks, before making a U-turn. Now, as a spokesman recently stated, the organisation believes ‘we can certainly see circumstances on which the use of masks, both home-made and cloth masks, at the community level may help with an overall comprehensive response to this disease.’

There now seems to be a consensus that disposable masks will not prevent you from catching coronavirus, but – given that surgeons wear them when treating patients – they will help prevent you from infecting others. Logically, if everyone wears them, at least in crowded places, everyone will be better protected than otherwise.

4. Imposing border checks in time

Just as supporters of economic globalisation and relaxed migration restrictions should oppose uncontrolled migration and its chaotic side-effects, it should be clear that during a pandemic, other rules apply. It makes no sense whatsoever to ‘test and trace’ while increasing hospital capacity, when people are allowed to cross borders unchecked.

This harsh reality is what ultimately led countries to shut their borders, after some hesitation. Where firm restrictions were instated early on, for example in Taiwan, the results in fighting Covid were positive. Here, South Korea acted more slowly, and did not restrict travel from China as firmly as Taiwan, which banned nearly all visitors from mainland China and ended up with less than 400 Covid cases, despite its proximity to China. Taiwan did not see the surge in cases South Korea witnessed before it controlled the virus – although one third of South Korea’s cases did originate from a secretive cult.

5. Transparent communication about social distancing

Social distancing is hard to police. Some countries, like Spain, have gone as far as preventing citizens going out for a walk or exercising outside, and have shut down ‘non-essential’ industry. In most European countries with a lockdown, such extreme measures were not necessary, as the public generally respected their recommendations. It’s clear, however, that trust in government can be bolstered by transparent communication. Belgium’s lockdown followed a U-turn by authorities, who had first claimed that Covid-19 was similar to a ‘mild flu’. Distrustful citizens ended up organising ‘lockdown parties’ before the start of the restrictions. When people feel something is being hidden from them, they will not cooperate with future measures.

Treating the public as adults and communicating in a transparent manner is absolutely key. A comparison between South Korea and China or European countries with tough lockdowns illustrates this. 

South Korea’s handling of the outbreak was all about transparency, while relying heavily on public cooperation, to ask for social distancing. The South Korean authorities have reserved extreme confinement to those infected and those they were in close contact with, while recommending everyone else to stay indoors, avoid crowded places, wear masks and practise good hygiene. A similar lockdown-free approach has worked in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, as well as Germany. For an example of the way public trust was diminished by the authorities, we need only look at the mismanagement of the Chinese government. 

Avoiding draconian lockdowns was perhaps not possible for many countries with insufficient testing or intensive care capacity during this crisis. Precisely because of this, countries wanting to avoid lockdowns in future need to improve these measures, while introducing early border restrictions, recommending masks and making sure government strategies are transparent, next time a crisis like this occurs.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

Overreaching Lockdowns Are Flattening Our Livelihoods

Millions of Americans are in the penalty box as we speak.

They have followed the advice of state and local officials and they have stayed home to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Businesses are on hold, birthdays are canceled, travel is limited, and we are glued to our screens to see how this all ends. While some of us have been able to carry on work, essential or not, during this trying time, that’s just not possible for most.

More than 16 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since lockdown orders went into effect in mid-March, and economists say we could face as high as 20 percent unemployment by summer.

It is certainly true that many states and cities have saved lives by ordering us to stay home. But blanket lockdowns are now flattening our livelihoods in a way that’s more dangerous than this pandemic.

Danish political scientist Bjorn Lomborg says that by closing all schools and jobs, we are “actually creating more damage, more long-term death, more long-term unemployment and unpleasantness for the whole population compared to what you’re achieving in saving lives.”

He’s right. It’s why Austria and Denmark have already begun to relax their lockdowns and open up their economies, but with social distancing rules still in effect. European leaders see the real damage that has been done to societies, and it is time to turn the tide while remaining responsible.

That is exactly what the American people can do as well.

We can still be responsible by socially distancing where necessary, wearing facemasks, quarantining at-risk groups, and using technology to track the spread of the virus. That is what countries going back to work have done since the start.

That will be more effective than forcing businesses to shutter, driving many of our compatriots to foodbanks or the brink of homelessness.

We have to look no further than our own hospitals.

It is true that many health facilities in major cities are overwhelmed, and we should be sending them every resource where possible.

But by canceling elective surgeries and operations that feed their budgets, rural and county hospitals have ironically begun laying off hundreds of thousands of health professionals and administrative staff. This is not because they are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients but rather because they do not have any patients at all.

If we are losing health professionals during a pandemic, then we are doing something wrong.

A one-size-fits-all-approach is usually misguided in our federal system, and it’s wrong now. There are 27 states that have had less than 100 fatalities, yet are still imposing crushing lockdowns. It is no wonder so many are itching to get back to work.

It is time to admit lockdowns are not a universal answer to the crisis we face.

Many criticize President Trump for his desire to open up the American economy. But his anxiety is a signal to workers and entrepreneurs everywhere: the pain and suffering of the novel coronavirus are real, but losing your income and prospects for feeding your family is just as bad or sometimes even worse.

Americans are a robust, strong and resilient people. We understand that things may never be the same, but we should be trusted to continue our lives while following the guidance of our scientists and doctors. That is the balance we need to protect our livelihoods and save those most vulnerable.

Originally published here.


The Consumer Choice Center is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org

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