On air: Does keeping economies afloat matter more than stopping the swine flu?

swineflu_595ap1This May Day weekend in Mexico will feel very different. Instead of parades and celebrations, all non-essential government services will close, along with cinemas, bars and restaurants. It’s believed it could cost $60 billion a day to the economy of Mexico city alone. And it’s not just that country’s economy that’s being hit. Stocks are falling, flights are being cancelled, 300,000 pigs have been killed in Egypt and some countries are banning pork imports. As many analysts are saying, this is the last thing the fragile world economy needs right now, let alone the vulnerable economy of Mexico. Is Mexico doing the right thing? Or does keeping the economy going matter more than stopping the swine flu?
When SARS broke out in 2003, it cost the Asia-Pacific region an estimated $40 billion. The WHO this time around has been careful not to advise against all non-essential travel to Mexico like it did back then, partly because it doesn’t want another repeat of the economic cost. Is that the responsible thing to do, or should it be more concerned with minimising the risk of transmission, no matter what the economic cost?

This US politician wants to close the border between the US and Mexico. That would have a devastating effect on the Mexican economy, and badly affect America too. The Obama administration has said it’s not considering closing the border so does that show that it’s putting economic concerns above health ones?

Should we all be continuing to travel to Mexico and making a special effort to buy pork to keep those industries going? Is there an argument that the potential fallout of the country of Mexico being thrown into economic chaos could be more damaging in the long term to the rest of the world than the short term risk of the flu spreading?

57 Responses to “On air: Does keeping economies afloat matter more than stopping the swine flu?”

  1. 1 gary
    May 1, 2009 at 15:32

    The people and their lives are the economy of the nation. Accountants can total the “costs” of folks getting ill, or of taking off work to watch a big soccer match, or of innumerable other human activities that interfere with one particular population segment making money. So what? In this instance some other segment will make money. The economy continues and ultimately, the best thing for it is to have as many of the people continuing living as is possible.

  2. 2 Rob (UK)
    May 1, 2009 at 15:33

    It will be easier to hold politicians accountable for allowing the disease to spread faster than for creating a situation that results in economic impact because the latter is such a complex issue. Politicians also must be seen to act in response to threats, even when not acting would have net benefits.

  3. May 1, 2009 at 16:04

    In case of the apparent danger of swine flu, it seems prevention is better than cure. If it spreads alarmingly, the entire economic revenues can’t eradicate it easily.

    However, it is the responsibility of the individuals to be sensible. Anyone feeling the symptoms should avoid mixing with the others and seek medical advice instead of spreading it by disregarding the precautions.

    The economy needs to keep going ,but not at the expense of general health. In other words, there is no need to have factories busy producing just vaccines for the entire workforce lying in beds because of an entrenched virus that can claim more material and health disasters if the economic activities keep going for a periodical gain that can turn into a permanent loss.

  4. 4 Rob (UK)
    May 1, 2009 at 16:11

    I’ve just heard that a co-worker has been ordered to stay at home for a week while his nasal culture is sent to the State Center for Disease Control. It’s right to be cautious but the chances of someone in Pennsylvania having contracted swine flu really are remote. This will be a week’s wages lost for nothing.

  5. 5 Doug
    May 1, 2009 at 16:18

    Scientists have said the flu cannot be transmitted through properly prepared meat, but it seems hysteria has overruled common sense when it comes to pork products.

    This could be very bad for my state, the fifth largest pork producer in the U.S.
    Manufacturing is sharply on the decline here. Now, a second major piece of our economic foundation is threatened by well-intented but misplaced vigilance.

  6. May 1, 2009 at 16:24

    Yes, well, losing money is one thing, but losing a quarter of a country’s population might have a little impact as well. Get a grip on yourselves. YOU travel to Mexico and spend money to help their economy if you like, but I’ll cool my jets for a while. Hope you have a little fun in “Q” , Ros.

  7. May 1, 2009 at 16:25

    Hi Martin
    on this entery and on the WHYS daily email and there is this statement, ” It’s believed it could cost $60 billion a day to the economy of Mexico city alone.” I checked the link. I am wondering if it costs just $60 million .

    Abdelilah Boukili,
    Marrakesh, Morocco

  8. 8 Tom K in Mpls
    May 1, 2009 at 16:42

    There is probably no illness harder to control than a flu. It spreads most before you show symptoms. The best thing to do is decide when to deploy mass inoculations. A decision with both health and economic elements. Both are parts of our daily existence. Both need continual reevaluation and policy adjustment. Life is not easily compartmentalized.

  9. May 1, 2009 at 16:55

    Hi Martin
    on this entery and on the WHYS daily email , there is this statement, ” It’s believed it could cost $60 billion a day to the economy of Mexico city alone.” I checked the link. I am wondering if it costs just $60 million .

    Abdelilah Boukili,
    Marrakesh, Morocco

  10. 10 saad From Pakistan
    May 1, 2009 at 16:58

    We should concentrate more on economy less on swine flu.Economic devastation can kill more people than swine flu. Hundreds will go hungry. Millions will lose their job. Businesses will shut down. Almost everything will collapse with economy.

    • May 2, 2009 at 15:36

      Yes Saad you are right – but this is good to give the public something else to worry about – it is also very good for the vaccine manufacturing business.
      But as for me ? I dont believe a word of it Allah Akbar.

  11. 12 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    May 1, 2009 at 16:59

    Your question assumes an either/or case: world economy or swine flu. This is NOT the case.

    The 1918 flu epidemic killed more people than the first world war, and that was at a time when the world was far less interconnected than it is now. The world population was a lot less. I don’t know what percentage of the then-population the deaths of 20 million people represented, but just imagine what the deaths of 20 or 40 or even 60 million people would do to the present world economy, especially as those dying would be the world travelers, the movers and shakers of the economy.

    Rather than worry about resources “wasted” in response to a disease that seems rather less threatening this week than last week, I think we should embrace the exercise of combatting it as we hone our expertise in dealing with this kind of problem.

    When the juggernaut of H5N1 bird flu, SARS, or an as yet unknown malady comes barreling down straight at us, we’ll at least have some idea of what works (covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, washing your hands, keeping your distance and calling your doctor if you present with flu-like symptoms), what doesn’t work (closing airports, banning meat or other imports), and the systems to contain the juggernaut will already have been tested and will be in place.

    • 13 james
      May 3, 2009 at 11:03

      The 1918 flu epidemic killed more people than the first world war,,a point already made,also that travel and foriegn inter action was tiny,which nowadays is unheard of in most countries.What amazes me is this;how lucky we have been in the recent 100yrs regarding epidemics, giving fresh evidence that viruses with the help of man can travel and infect areas within days around the globe, i suppose its a matter of time until something really nasty rears it head.The thirst for commerce and human migration can only speed this up.

  12. 14 nora
    May 1, 2009 at 17:19

    On behalf of my AIDS dead and the world economy, remember the paltry response to the early cases under Reagan, when a few dollars and some genuine alarm could have prevented the mess we have now.

  13. 15 Peter sc
    May 1, 2009 at 17:19

    Hi Ros , you’ve been quarantine. Wow! Tell us about it one day. My dog was sent over from another country and got quarantined . He could’nt tell me how it is like. Fill us in. Well if st needs to be done it needs to be done. CHINA was not forthright when SARS hit them and they were bash by the western media. I think the world should be wiser now.

  14. 16 Anthony
    May 1, 2009 at 17:23

    @ Rob (UK)

    I very much agree with you. I also think they will play it up, so that when it goes away, it looks like the government did a good job, just like how doctors sometimes play up illnesses, so when its a speedy recovery, the doctor comes out looking good.

    As to the question… YES, of course it’s more important than this stupid flu. Last time the “swine flu” came around it was gone in a month…. our economy will effect us much longer than that.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  15. May 1, 2009 at 17:28

    I think that the world’s governemnts are using this as a way of deflecting the world’s economic problems from the front pages. I’m disappointed that, largely, the media are letting them.

    • 18 Jessica in NYC
      May 1, 2009 at 17:51

      I agree, Mike Souter. A few days ago, I thought the response from our leaders was measured. Now, it’s a circus. However, I think some media and people are just as much to blame. They are sensationalizing every detail. I had the news on on the background and actually heard a news reporter say something to the effect of: The office behind me had an inflected person. This is where he worked and some people fear going inside.

      Ros mention yesterday some people don’t even want to sit on the sofa with WHYS staff who returned from Mexico or stand with 5 feet of them. People are absolutely ridiculous!

  16. May 1, 2009 at 17:34

    300,000 pigs have been killed in Egypt and some countries are banning pork imports

    Well clearly that’s just stupid.

  17. 20 Peter White
    May 1, 2009 at 17:35

    The scientific and governmental announcements relating to the virus have been very well informed. They have been very careful to tell what actually can get you the disease and what absolutely will not.

    Of course with any announcement of a new danger, individuals and the media will spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD). It’s the bread & butter the media in this day and age. It is very easy to misreport information about new threats, especially if not much is known.

    Since not much is known about ANY breaking news situation, it is important that certain television news sources STOP covering the same situation (Pirates, Virus, Whatever) every ten minutes for the entire waking day. Its irresponsible at best.

  18. 21 Jessica in NYC
    May 1, 2009 at 17:41

    If you catch the swine flu it might make you lose a few days of work, but in a sinking economy you will lose your job and maybe your will to live when you can’t pay your bills.

    As with all deseases if you have abnormal complications or suffer a death, it’s because of other medical factors. I kept thinking about this after yesterday’s show when a silly caller talked about not eating out, because of the fear.

  19. 22 Anthony
    May 1, 2009 at 17:57

    Why do people keep on comparing this to AIDS, that just shows how people over exaggerate things, just like the western media does. You CANNOT compare the two, that’s like comparing the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the nuclear bombing of Japan.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

    • 23 Tom K in Mpls
      May 1, 2009 at 18:18

      Anthony. I could not agree more with the comparisons! Both diseases spread from human contact before you show symptoms and both can be deadly. They soon covered the world. Although you do live a lot longer after contracting AIDS.

      As for the bombing, both were decisive strikes opening new wars using new military strengths and tactics. Pearl Harbor was the first time carrier strike groups were used and are still the most powerful conventional military force in the world today. As for nuking Japan, That was the first ( and fortunately last ) attack of the Cold War. Japan payed the price for the message sent to the USSR. Ending WW2 was simply a convenient excuse for the US.

  20. 24 Pat, Ruston, LA
    May 1, 2009 at 18:01

    Where do you calculate $60 Billion per day?
    In 100 days it would cost the city $6 trillion half the US economy.
    It does not make sense.

  21. 25 Tom D Ford
    May 1, 2009 at 18:07

    I have started wondering about the possibility of this H1N1 “Swine Flu” actually spreading to swine. Since there is no vaccination yet , those giant factory hog farms could be devastated by any outbreak. It could be bye bye “Babe”.

  22. 26 Tom D Ford
    May 1, 2009 at 18:11

    If this H1N1 has components from human, swine, and avian flus, is there the possibility of it passing into birds too?

  23. 27 Andrew in Australia
    May 1, 2009 at 18:15

    What of the economic consequences if the influenza gets a toe hold and spreads out of control, the flow on effects to the health system to name just one.

    Sadly what will happen if the outbreak is not as bad as first thought then people will become complacent and begin the well that was a big dud, why worry the next time.

    As for SARS, perhaps the efforts that were implemented actually worked to prevent the worst case, but of course you never see the value in something when an outcome DIDN’T occur.

  24. 28 Caleb Fennell
    May 1, 2009 at 18:20

    David from Hong Kong correctly pointed out the disconnect from actual risk and hysteria about swine flu infection.

    The United States has an annual death rate from normal, seasonal flu of approximately 36,000 per year. That’s an average of 100 per day.

    The death rate to infection for H1N1 swine flu has not been established. I’m astonished at the amount of media resources devoted to what is a non-story in my mind.

  25. May 1, 2009 at 18:30

    People keep saying that the flu does not get contract eating pork and we need to ease up on the pork producers.

    But the fact is that it is the way they raise the pork that is creating this disease. It is the factory farming that caused the avian flu to happen and it is pork farming that caused this. Not only that our factory farming creates anti-biotic resistant strains. This is what should be our focus if we want to seriously address this issue

  26. 30 Anthony
    May 1, 2009 at 18:37

    @ Tom K

    OK Tom, if you can compare the 2 liek that, please tell me, what would you rather have, AIDs or the Swine Flu? Hmmmm, I bet I know the answer, and I bet I know the answer of pretty much EVERYONE IN THE WORLD. Come on now, it’s mentalities like that which blow this out of proportion.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  27. 32 Hari.K.G
    May 1, 2009 at 18:40

    Over reaction or not, the media attention on Mexico and it’s daily life is tremendous. I think one needs to be concerned about the typical Mexican who should be feeling the burden of everyday life and the undue attention on his life.

    I believe the government in Mexico should maintain a strong public distribution system, if it has one, to keep essential commodities in the market; establish hot lines for people who would like to talk out and seek essential information; and media outlets used to discuss what people confined to their homes should be doing to maintain their health.

    Hari. K.G.
    Kerala, India

  28. 33 Dick
    May 1, 2009 at 18:41

    I don’t think the world economy will collapse. Economies respond to opportunity and this represents an opportunity for some and a serious loss for others. Until things warm up a bit and the flu season passes for now, this will remain a problem with economic impacts.

    Given the struggle of people who live at the margins of the economy, I will be sending donations to charitable organizations (e.g., Mexican Red Cross, my own church’s international development/aid organization). People who are living at the margins and who have lost income as a result of the protections put in place for swine flu need help.

  29. 34 Vijay
    May 1, 2009 at 18:43

    This influenza a1n1(swineflu,part avian,porcine and human)will matter in the Americas,Pacific Islands and anywhere “first peoples” are present(and of course HIV/AIDS sufferers),therefore the rest of the world has to get on with their economic activity,but study this new variant of flu and follow its mutations.

  30. 35 Scott - FL, USA
    May 1, 2009 at 18:44

    It is more important to contain and understand the new virus, because it is a natural occurance that could not have been avoided.

    The effects this has on the economy is a tremendous opportunity to identify weaknesses in our financial activities and fix them. An ideal economy will be able to overcome the effects of a new virus. Now we will know what it will take to protect ourselves against similar occurances in the future.

  31. 36 Gabriel
    May 1, 2009 at 18:45

    We are tackling of a new virus with genetic elements of swine, bird and human flu. Its infection potential has showed to be higher than that of the other flu viruses of the group A. But it seems that its virulence it is not so strong as all was pointed in the beginning, but its synergestic interaction with other already existing infections has been fatal for many mexicans.
    An estimation of risk could be done only after obtaining objective data of the damage caused by the virus, what will be the case only after few days. Only then we could be sure wheter the economic interest should prevail over the public health consequences or not.

  32. May 1, 2009 at 18:46

    Shutting down the border is insane!

    Shut down pork plants that keep their pigs in horrible conditions and allow these diseases to form.

  33. May 1, 2009 at 18:47

    Factory farming did not only cause this but it is a big cause of global warming. So the issues are related.

  34. 39 Victor in utah
    May 1, 2009 at 18:51

    If this flu really poses a threat to peoples lives then…
    In General having ones loved ones living is worth quite a bit to most individuals.

    Some Greedy individuals look only at thier investment portfolio.
    They don’t think about the land far removed from them personally and the people that they have never seen or met and they personally don’t care about those people who would end up dieing so their personal wallet can remain padded.
    I thinks this lack of compassion and empathy is cold, sad, sick and disturbing.

    If this flu is all pharmaceutical hype then shame on the pharmaceutical companies for inciting fear and panic for profit.

    We The People of the World need more information to truly understand the risks.

  35. 40 Anthony
    May 1, 2009 at 18:52

    @ Tom K in Mpls

    “Neither Anthony, neither.”

    Exactly, you won’t answer because you know I am correct. EVERYONE in the world would RATHER have the swine flu than AID’s, and THATS why you cannot compare the two. Doing so is doing what Western Media does, which blows it out of proportion.
    -Anthony, LA, CA

  36. 41 Jessica in NYC
    May 1, 2009 at 18:58

    Absolutely not! Shutting down NYC would devastate our economy and would further cripple the country.

    People need to remember to wash their hands and cover their nose when they sneeze and cough. it’s that simple.

  37. 42 MikeA
    May 1, 2009 at 19:38

    Yes, the economy is more important than a few millions lives, especially babies and old people. We can always make more babies and the old people are already a drag on our economy.

  38. 43 yadvinder
    May 1, 2009 at 20:54

    If wealth is lost nothing is lost,but if health is lost every thing is lost.Swine flu is killing people,economies can be built from scratch,so we should be worrying more about people rather than economies.

  39. May 2, 2009 at 09:38

    please don’t mention the Mexicanflue anymore as the swineflue. We in Holland are only speaking about the Mexicanflue. Due to “swineflue”, the Egyptians are going to slaughter all the pigs in their country, which since ages is the food for the Christians. I do feel so sorry for them. Can you imagine what it means for those people? It must be dreadful. The old monasteries of the Copts which are selfsupporting in their food for instance, see their meat dragged away from them.
    They are already under threat en being opposed in many ways, just as in Turkey. ( May be worse in that country I believe.)
    You, as media, have such a great responsibility; please be aware of it.
    I listen often to your broadcast and it pleases me very much. Thank you.
    Kind regards,
    Mieke van der Burg

  40. May 2, 2009 at 09:46

    for me,this swine flu whatever sounds like some peoples stimulus package.even changing its name wont stop anyone from wanting to know the source of the flu.what china must know is that its supplies of swine wont come from islamic nations,they will have culled all its swines,even though they havent carried out a test of how many swines are currently infected.
    the only good thing and understandable about swine flu is that it will have taought mexicans and me to construct stores or silos in their backyards,we could be asked again to stay indoors for a month if it happened in the future…jobs for masons.

    tambua village(TV),

  41. 46 Gilbert (Vancouver)
    May 2, 2009 at 15:56

    I’ve been too busy to worry about whether I’ll get the flu or not!! I first heard about it from the BBC, last week! I know one of my bosses was checking up on the availability of face masks which seems kind of sensible (I would say that!) but over reacting is just as dangerous as doing nothing!

    As far as the question goes I would say that stopping a (possible) pandemic is more important than bailing out banks. Death is death being broke is something you can survive, kind of!

    So there’s my answer. I’m gonna go back to sleep I think.

  42. May 3, 2009 at 00:42

    Yes it does. Supporting the economy does matter more than going after the Type
    A H1N1 influenza.

  43. 48 Jerry L
    May 3, 2009 at 05:31

    Scientifically, statistics show that there are 75% more people on Earth than the planet can support at a reasonable standard of living [that’s 2.5 Billion too many].
    What is unfortunate is that there is no way to control who becomes victim to the potential pandemic.

  44. May 3, 2009 at 06:11

    Why is it government wants such personally detailed control over individuals, but when it comes THEIR responsability to do their MAIN JOB of protecting the public, they can only think in broad strokes?

    They can’t ask people crossing boarders what their purpose is and let border personnel make the call case by case?

    This would be an excellent time to treat cirtizens as if we have individual brains, force the media to distruibute reliable, basic public service information, and forbid them to capitalize with all these odiotic political opinions. Get Biden off camera as a rule and replace that useless hype with some actual medical advice beyond “cover your mouth when you sneeze”. DUH?

    A major network, while debunking Biden put up their own useless info about how “aircraft filters are just as more gooder than hospital filters. SO? Do filters work at all? It’s a VIRUS. It can travel through a filter like we walk through doors! Am I wrong? Will I ever know?

  45. May 3, 2009 at 10:24

    i guess it’s a matter of being very very careful. if everybody acts responsible, the swineflu can be stopped without too much damage to the economy. I think Mexico should get as much help as possible..

  46. 51 Rajeev Batra
    May 3, 2009 at 12:17

    Human Life value is much more important than any thing on this planet earth. Money gone nothing gone,Life gone everything gone. Let world Scientists and Doctors focus on finding a solution to this virus. Business will carryon lifelong if life is there. Japan has frequent earthquakes still it is one of the leading economies of the world. Mexico will recover economically very fast with sympathatic support from the world. Lets save human lives first and lateron these lives will take care of the economic growth and prosperity.

  47. 52 james
    May 3, 2009 at 21:55

    Driving to london from the southcoast at 60 mph max, i still get to work the same time but its cheaper,sraping my paint tins to the last drop,stopping ordering a skip help to reduce waste and cost,works tight but cheaper! but being made to be more careful ans effient will make us better in someway,.

  48. 53 giorgi
    May 4, 2009 at 17:30

    we have to understand that swine flu and economy are both important ,if one of them will be develpening many people will die either bacause of hunger or because of virus which can also injure world’s population

  49. 54 Dennis Junior
    May 5, 2009 at 04:30

    No, keeping the economies afloat is the better choice right now during
    the swine flu problems…..

    ~Dennis Junior~

  50. 55 globalcomedy
    May 5, 2009 at 06:47

    In an ideal world, the global economy would adjust to anything and we’d all be ok.

    But human nature says otherwise. When they’re threatened, people will do and say anything they have to to protect themselves. Seperate yourself from the right wing nutters who always think the world’s going to end in these situations. And what happens? You’ll still a percentage of people who say to hell with the “experts”. There’s no danger? I DON’T BELIEVE YOU. Think back to what happened when AIDS started. The same thing can happen again.

  51. 56 Dr.M.Shafi
    May 5, 2009 at 12:20

    don’t close your borders, demolish pigs forms.

    Really that is big problem for whole world so fortunate Afghanistan is one of those countries that there is no pork and pig, because Islam prohibite the pork to Muslims.
    And that is one of advantage that we see it right now.

  52. May 9, 2009 at 12:26

    Public health should always be paramount. The reality is it isn’t.

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