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Combating the COVID-19 pandemic: The role of the SARS imprint

Hong Ru, Endong Yang and Kunru Zou

No 15/2020, BOFIT Discussion Papers from Bank of Finland, Institute for Economies in Transition

Abstract: This paper documents a strong delayed response to COVID-19, which is caused by the SARS-CoV2 virus in countries that did not encounter the SARS disease in 2003. The SARS outbreak was caused by a similar virus, SARS-CoV-1. Individuals in countries that developed SARS infections in 2003 search more intensively for COVID-19-related information on Google during the first outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, in late January 2020. Governments in countries that have not experienced SARS respond significantly slower in implementing containment measures to combat COVID-19 than countries that have experienced SARS. Furthermore, the timely responses of individuals and governments are more pronounced in countries that reported deaths caused by SARS, which left deeper imprints. Consequently, COVID-19 case numbers and mortalities have been substantially higher in countries that did not experience SARS deaths. Our findings suggest that the imprint of the early experience of similar viruses is a fundamental mechanism underlying timely responses to COVID-19.

JEL-codes: D83 E70 H12 I10 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-06-30
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