Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Treasury is ignoring long covid

I've read some bad stuff about long covid recently, and Marc Daalder's recent Newsroom piece about what endemic covid means for Aotearoa got me wondering about whether the government was thinking about it. Mass-disability due to long covid has obvious implications for health and welfare spending, as well as for the economy in general, as it will mean more people unable to work or working with lower productivity. A sensible covid policy would be including these long-term costs in its decision-making about covid control.

So is the government doing that? Sadly, the answer appears to be "no". I asked both Treasury and the Ministry of Health for any advice or assessment of the impact of long covid on New Zealand. And Treasury - the government's chief economic advisor, who run the cost-benefit analsis ruler over every policy - hasn't been thinking about it at all.

(Ministry of Health's response isn't due until mid-July, but I'd expect their focus to be more on the health system rather than broader economic effects).

This isn't very reassuring. This is a huge potential cost to our society, as well as a huge impact on people's lives. And the government's chief economic advisor is apparently blind to it. Which means they'll be systematically under-estimating the benefits of covid control (in reducing those costs), and likely doing less to control covid than they would if those costs were included. And that is not a recipe for good policy, or for trust in government.