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Monday, November 27, 2023

Oxford economist calls for elderly to pay ‘corona tax’

An Oxford economist received widespread criticism when he suggested that older people should be taxed. He said that the lockdowns & closure of economic activities have washed away the jobs of younger people, therefore, this should be compensated by the elderly to pay 'corona tax'. Can this be a practical solution for this problem?

The elderly have already been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, but one Oxford economist thinks that they should shell out to ease the economic burden on the young. He’s since been accused of “scapegoating” the vulnerable.

“Young people benefit the least from the lockdown measures because they are less susceptible to the virus,” economist and professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve told Belgian news channel VRT on Thursday. “The older generation should realize that young people are sacrificing themselves, both economically and in terms of mental health.”

To even the score, the 41-year-old Oxford professor – who heads the prestigious university’s ‘Wellbeing Research Center’ – proposed a tax on the elderly, possibly a once-off payment. However, he did not mention the age from which his tax would kick in, or what would be done in the case of elderly people who couldn’t afford such a levy.

The economic and mental health problems highlighted by De Neve are real. As governments, the world over scramble to bail out their floundering economies, Belgium’s debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to cross 100 percent this year, along with Cyprus, France, Portugal, and Spain.

European unemployment is projected to double in the coming months, according to one estimate, while the World Health Organization’s mental health department warned on Wednesday of an upsurge in mental illnesses as a result of the pandemic and lockdown measures.

However, from a health standpoint, the elderly have disproportionately borne the brunt of the deadly illness. As of last month, nursing homes accounted for nearly half of all coronavirus-related deaths in Belgium. Similar figures have been reported in Italy, Spain, France, and Ireland.

In some European countries, including Italy and Ireland, the over-60s account for more than 90 percent of all Covid-19 deaths.

Read more: Weird nature of coronavirus: Scientists look for answers

Given this stark reality, governments would likely face a political firing squad if they tried to tax the elderly, as De Neve suggests they should.

The Belgian economist was accused online of “scapegoating” the old, with one commenter slating him for suggesting such a proposal “in a country where taxes are highest and pensions are lowest.”

The vulnerability of older people due to coronavirus

Researchers announced the most comprehensive estimates to date of elderly people’s elevated risk of serious illness and death from the new coronavirus: Covid-19 kills an estimated 13.4% of patients 80 and older, compared to 1.25% of those in their 50s and 0.3% of those in their 40s.

The sharpest divide came at age 70. Although 4% of patients in their 60s died, more than twice that, or 8.6%, of those in their 70s, did, Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London and his colleagues estimated in their paper, published in Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The new estimates come as scientists have been scrambling to figure out the underlying reasons for older people’s greater susceptibility to the virus — and, in particular, why some mount a stronger immune response than others.

It starts with preexisting conditions: Data from China show that such comorbidities dramatically raise the risk of dying from Covid-19. But chronic illnesses maybe not only a contributor to Covid-19 deaths but also a mark of biological aging and declining immunity.

Read more: Can we take “advantage” of the coronavirus crisis?

The new calculations, based on 70,117 laboratory-confirmed and clinically-diagnosed cases in mainland China and 689 cases among people evacuated from Wuhan on repatriation flights, allowed the Imperial College researchers to estimate the overall death rate from the disease.

In the outbreak’s early weeks that was thought to be as high as 3% to 8%. Instead, the fatality rate among people with the confirmed disease is 1.38%, they concluded.

RT with additional input from GVS News Desk