Researchers in Israel have formulated a new workweek model that they say would allow workers to return to offices, but help mitigate a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
The 10-4 plan entails a four-day workweek followed by 10 days in quarantine, which Eran Yashiv, a professor of economics at Tel Aviv University and London School of Economics Centre for Macroeconomics, says is contingent on COVID-19’s perceived window of infectiousness.
The model hinges on research conducted by his collaborators — professors Uri Alon and Ron Milo at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel — which estimates that a patient is not contagious to others for “three days, possibly longer” after they are infected, he said. Models created by the researchers predict that the two-week cycle could reduce the virus’s reproduction number to below one. The research has not yet been peer reviewed.
According to their theory, even if someone contracted COVID-19 during their four days at work, they would be back in lockdown before they became highly infectious, and stay there potentially long enough for the symptoms to dissipate, Yashiv told The Current’s Matt Galloway. Current Canadian guidelines mandate at least 14 days in self-isolation for anyone showing COVID-19 symptoms.
“This enables four normal days, in fact, more than normal — you can work longer hours during those four days that you’re out, you can also do shopping,” Yashiv said.
Yashiv and his collaborators intend the model to be “a more steady path” to getting people back to work.
He says it is not meant to be “the new normal,” but a stopgap that helps reduce the risk of community transmission, allowing workers to return to work “without living in this fear that ‘Well, maybe there’ll be a resurgence and we’ll be called back to lockdown.'”
Yashiv’s team used epidemiological and macroeconomic models to see what effect the scheme could have on Israel’s economy. The results showed unemployment would rise up to 32 percentage points under Israel’s lockdown scenarios, but only up to 21 percentage points under the 10-4 scheme, he said.
Schools in Austria are adopting a similar model when students return on Monday — with students split into two groups. One group attends class Monday to Wednesday, the second group attends Thursday to Friday, and they swap the following week.
Yashiv noted some companies, including Mastercard in New York, are also exploring the idea.
In Canada, some provinces have begun to revive their economies and reopen schools and businesses as the number of cases fall or even off, but there is no clear indication of when the wider workforce could return to normal, and experts have warned it will be slow and gradual.
Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, says the 10-4 plan is a “really interesting approach.”
“It’s working with the biology to try to come up with a feasible way to get back to work,” he told Galloway.
But he warned of a risk in the plan’s reliance on average timeframes for infection and symptoms showing up.
“Some people show symptoms as soon as a day after being exposed and others are much longer,” he said.
“There’s a risk, but you know, is there a better plan at this stage? I’m not really sure.”
Plan divides population into two groups
As part of the 10-4 scheme, participants would be divided into two groups, said Yashiv. One group would work four days the first week, and the second group could work four days the next (while the first group is waiting out their 10 lockdown days).
If it’s possible to work from home during the subsequent 10 lockdown days, you can, Yashiv said.
But anyone showing signs of the virus would be removed from the scheme until they recovered, and subject to a country’s existing quarantine measures, including self-isolation and physical distancing.
Yashiv said the plan would help stimulate consumer spending, as “firms can plan their production patterns, and households can plan their consumption patterns if they know this is a regular, predictable schedule.”
He added that the 10-4 scheme can be applied at any level, from a business to an entire country.
If used at a company level, management or human resources can designate people “according to the jobs they carry out, their function in the firm or the institution, and try to get a balance over the two different groups,” he said.
If applied across an entire city or even country, the two groups could be divided by household, and designated by a colour scheme, he said. Police checks for designated colour IDs could make sure no one was breaking lockdown on a week their colour group was meant to be indoors, Yashiv added.
Some experts have suggested people who recover from the virus could be given “immunity passports” allowing them to leave lockdown, but there are concerns that not enough is known about the antibodies and the extent of protection.
Yashiv pointed out that the 10-4 scheme is “not predicated on testing people,” or making distinctions between the two broad groups.
He acknowledged that enforcing lockdown would be key to the plan’s success, but pointed to countries that have already been through weeks of strict enforcement as examples of public willingness to co-operate.
“I agree that it may be tempting to go out once you are partially released from lockdown, but the whole thing should be compared to complete lockdown — that’s the alternative that we are comparing to,” he told Galloway.
“You need that level of control, not more strict, but obviously not more lax than that.”
Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Joana Draghici.
New cruise ship restrictions will mean big hit to B.C. economy, industry says – CBC.ca
There will be no cruise season in Canada this year, an industry representative says, after the federal transport minister announced new restrictions on vessels’ ability to sail in Canadian waters.
On Friday, federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau announced further limits on vessels and extended restrictions until October as a measure to limit the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s obviously disappointing news,” said Barry Penner, legal advisor to Cruise Lines International Association — Northwest and Canada. “There won’t be a cruise season in Canada, at all.”
“This announcement will be acutely felt in coastal communities, small towns, bigger centres, everywhere from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and especially British Columbia.”
Penner said the cruise ship industry contributed over $4.1 billion to the Canadian economy in 2018 and led to 29,000 jobs. Over $2.3 billion of that economic activity and over 15,000 of those jobs are in B.C.
The employment figures include spin-off jobs in businesses like hotels, restaurants and taxis serving cruise ship customers on shore, as well as suppliers producing goods for vessels, Penner said.
310 Vancouver port calls cancelled
B.C. health officials have already said cruise ships will be allowed to stop for refuelling in the province’s ports but passengers will not be permitted to disembark.
Dayna Miller, director of global partnerships with Tourism Vancouver, said her organization understands the decision by the federal government.
“I think we were not entirely surprised,” Miller said, especially with large gatherings on hold in B.C.
However, she said, 310 cruise ship calls were expected in Vancouver this season, which would have brought about 1.2 million visitors to the city. Each call, she said, generates about $3 million in economic activity.
“It’s a vital industry as a whole,” she said.
The coronavirus pandemic has been devastating to the cruise industry globally.
Experts have said cruise ships, with hundreds or thousands of people in close proximity, present virus transmission risks.
There have been reports that even once cruises are given the OK to begin operations again, fewer customers will want to set sail over health fears. Some have speculated the pandemic will mean the end for at least some cruise lines.
In February, a high-profile outbreak on the cruise ship Diamond Princess led to hundreds of passengers testing positive for the disease.
“I think everybody’s been learning, as fast as they can, around the world,” Penner said.
Penner said the pandemic has been a “vexing” problem for governments and health authorities and the cruise industry is working with both to find best practices to contain viral risks.
But cruise lines aren’t alone, he said. Airlines and movie theatres face similar issues, for instance.
His industry is making some changes to increase consumer confidence, such as making cancellations more flexible for travellers booking in 2021.
S&P US chief economist: How we can add $5.7 trillion to the US economy – CNN
Restarting The American Economy: The Most Essential Factors – Forbes
When governors and the federal government made the decision to close “non-essential” businesses and issue shelter-at-home orders to slow the spread of COVID-19, they did so without the benefit of a historical precedent. We are only now beginning to understand some of the ramifications of this drastic action. As the U.S. moves to unshackle its economy, millions of workers sit nervously waiting for a call from their employer. Though some workers have returned or hired on with companies that have thrived during this pandemic, others may never get ‘the call’ as companies restructure. You see, a crisis provides an opportunity (and motivation) for companies to reevaluate their business model in search of ways to cut expenses and increase profits. This is because success depends on how well a company can meet the needs of its consumers (revenue) and how well it manages its expenses. The difference between revenue and expenses is profit, which is the driving force behind the private sector. Profit is the lifeblood of every business and it is this lifeblood that is under attack.
How quickly will the U.S. economy return to normal? The answer is ‘it depends.’ It depends on how fast the unemployment rate falls. It depends on how quickly the consumer returns to their pre-COVID level of spending. It depends on the path of the virus. In essence, it depends on a myriad of variables. Let’s begin with unemployment as this will determine the level of economic growth over the next 12 to 18 months.
The official number of unemployed workers is now slightly over 41 million. This is substantially higher than the 5.75 million unemployed at the end of 2019. The current number of unemployed workers represents approximately 26% of the ‘pre-COVID-19’ work force. The unemployment rate hit 14.7% in April, the highest figure since the 24.9% rate during the Great Depression. According to some sources, unemployment is expected to reach 25.2% by the end of this year. Unlike the depression, however, the cause of this downturn is known, and the policy response has been more on point. Even so, can the U.S. economy return to normal with so many workers on the sidelines?
Slower Return to Normal?
Roughly 70% of the U.S. economic engine comes from consumer spending. Thus, when the consumer is actively engaged, the economy tends to prosper. Remove an additional 35 million consumers from the work force and, well, the economy suffers. More importantly, debt plays a vital role in economic growth. When consumers borrow, they spend more, which leads to growth. When you look at the level of total credit issued from all commercial banks since 1973, the average increase from one month to the next was 0.6%. In March and April of this year, the increase was 2.8% and 3.3% respectively. However, this was due to a 25% rise in commercial and industrial lending, much of which is attributable to the Paycheck Protection Program.
What about the largest driver of economic growth? Loans to consumers, which averaged a 0.5% increase from month to month since 1973, fell 3.5% in April. This is the largest monthly decline on record. This reduction in consumer lending has led to weaker consumer spending and slower economic growth. In fact, from March 1 to the end of April, consumer spending – as measured by personal consumption expenditures, fell nearly 20%. If you reduce the volume of loans to consumers – again, the largest contributor to GDP consumer spending falls and the economy slows. Therefore, we must find a way to help the consumer regain what they lost from the shutdown.
What else will affect the return to normal? It starts with demand, which, due to the shutdown, has plummeted. This is why the federal government, the Treasury, and the Fed embarked on a massive stimulus program to put money into the hands of Americans. However, since a one-time payment of $1,200 per individual and $500 per dependent won’t go very far, the federal government added a $600 per month bump in unemployment benefits.
The segment that benefits most from this are workers at the lower end of the income scale. Assuming these unemployed workers are receiving a total benefit of $800 per week ($200 state; $600 fed), this equates to over $41,000 per year. Working for $15 per hour, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks per year, yields $31,200 in gross income. Therefore, where is the incentive to return to a lower paying job? Unless extended, the $600 federal stipend will end July 30. This could lead to a flood of workers seeking reemployment. But how many of these jobs will be filled by then?
Safety concerns are key to consumer demand, which is key to the reemployment of the unemployed. How fast will the consumer reengage? Will there be a second wave of the virus? Will the virus mutate, hindering efforts to develop a vaccine? Regardless, some businesses will permanently close, others will reopen more slowly than expected, and many will look vastly different. Technology will assist those who continue working from home and replace jobs in some industries.
The ‘return to normal’ boils down to how well businesses adapt to this rapidly changing environment and become profitable again. A prosperous business community is necessary for a plentiful job market, which is critical for a thriving economy. If businesses fail to thrive, workers will have fewer employment options and unemployment could remain elevated for longer than necessary. Thus, saving our businesses may be the most important task of all, outside of the virus that is.
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