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The Costs and Benefits of Limiting Movement to Fight Coronavirus

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With border controls tightened and multiple countries locking down their citizens in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, a debate rages about the trade-offs of restricting people’s movements. The constraints have been credited with slowing the spread of the disease. But such measures -- both inside countries and between them -- carry huge economic costs.

As some of the largest U.S. states and huge countries such as India forced people to stay home from mid-March, there was more discussion of how the measures disrupt commerce and supply chains, crippling economies. U.S. President Donald Trump ignited alarm on March 24 when he said he envisioned U.S. restrictions lifted by Easter Sunday, April 12; he later outlined plans to determine which parts of the country were still at risk. He expressed concern about the harm of a long-term economic shutdown, warning of thousands of suicides if there’s a prolonged downturn. Some billionaires raised risks such as surging unemployment, personal bankruptcies and social unrest.