Could Coronavirus Succeed Where the Grinch Couldn’t?

Two Nobel Prize-winning economists say France needs to go back into lockdown to “save Christmas.”

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, two of the three winners of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2019, predict a spike in coronavirus deaths after Christmas if France does not enact a new lockdown for the first two-thirds of December. The economists, both of whom are from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recommended implementing a nationwide lockdown before letting people reunite with their families for the holiday in a Saturday op-ed for French newspaper Le Monde.

“It is necessary to decree confinement from 1st to 20th December to avoid a catastrophic increase of COVID-19 among the elderly after Christmas,” the two Nobel laureates said. “Unfortunately, their children and grandchildren are at risk of infecting them.”

Their proposal comes in response to France experiencing a resurgence of the pandemic. The nation’s sharp increase in cases over the past month could force its government to establish a lockdown and possibly even “ban traveling and family gatherings” at Christmas.

The economists pointed to the uptick in cases and deaths in the United States earlier this year as an example of how such pre-holiday restrictions would be prudent step.

“In the United States, the long weekends of Memorial Day at the end of May and Independence Day on 4th July were followed by peaks of infection,” they said.

The pair wishes to avoid widespread confinement when it is already too late and asked for a “collective effort to save Christmas.”

The cost to the economy from another lockdown would be significant, they noted, but smaller than having to cancel Christmas because the announcement of such measures now would allow families to organize themselves as much as possible and shops to plan for an upsurge in online orders.

The two economists — along with Harvard University’s Michael Kremer — won the Nobel Prize “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty,” according to the prize committee.

Since the onset of the pandemic, France has recorded more than 542,000 cases of the coronavirus and nearly 32,000 related deaths.

(Edited by Carlin Becker and Matthew Hall.)



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