Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Thresholds of unhealthiness: Governing in the time of COVID-19

Cullerne Bown, William (2020): Thresholds of unhealthiness: Governing in the time of COVID-19.

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COVID-19 has left many governments facing questions of priority for which there is no obvious conceptual framework. When questions of politics, economics and health are so intertwined that one cannot be properly discussed without the others then neither political economy nor public health offer an adequate basis. Here I draw on principles of measurement to distil from epidemiology and economics the foundational concepts required in the current circumstances for governing. For governments determined to control their epidemic, I conclude they cannot avoid subordinating all other principles to a threshold of unhealthiness, and that these thresholds can be ordered. A corollary is a new and enduring uncertainty in all questions of policy. I illustrate different thresholds with examples from the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

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