End Lockdown for Young to Give Economy a Chance, Research Says

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(Bloomberg) --

Two researchers have come up with a novel suggestion for reviving economies when the coronavirus pandemic eases -- let twentysomethings get to work first.

In what they call a “balance between epidemiology and economics” Warwick University authors Andrew Oswald and Nattavudh Powdthavee say that 20-30 year olds are more resilient to the disease and hence best-placed to take jobs outside the home.

“Although COVID deaths are, appropriately, the current concern, it is likely that the large financial costs of shutting down a major part of the economy will become increasingly obvious,” they wrote in a study focusing on the U.K. “The young cohort could be allowed to restart or open small businesses, restaurants, transport services, to buy and sell cars and houses, and much else.”

Those people eligible for “release” would have to meet certain conditions to avoid worsening the pandemic, according to the analysis. Primarily, they could not live with their parents. They would also have to avoid all contact with older adults, though they could still make deliveries.

Even within that group, the key people would be those already employed in the private sector, on the assumption that public-sector workers are less likely to lose their jobs. The authors calculated that 2.6 million people would fall into that category in the U.K.

The exercise could be applied to other nations, though the researchers acknowledge it has political challenges by noting that some of those young people would die from the coronavirus -- around 630 by a rough estimate -- and more still would be hospitalized.

But they also reckoned that “if kept cooped up, the young can be expected to be the most prone to aggressive and other dangerous kinds of behavior” -- and they can be more easily monitored outside the home.

“Unless a vaccine is discovered quickly, it is unlikely that there will be any riskless or painless course of action,” they wrote. “Epidemiological and economic trade-offs will instead have to be faced. The choices at that juncture are likely to be difficult ones for politicians and citizens.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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