Tackling the COVID-19 Pandemic
(2020) 43:2 Manitoba Law Journal 1
40 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2020 Last revised: 23 Mar 2021
Date Written: 2020
The recent coronavirus outbreak provides a fit backdrop for us to assess our preparedness for and reaction to this and future outbreaks. This article considers the role of non-state actors in global health crises. While much attention has been afforded to the role of the state in preventing and managing these crises, the recent coronavirus outbreak reminds us that the effectiveness of the state’s response to (the economic consequences of) global health crises is largely dependent on the good faith and implicit obligations of the private sector. In a capitalistic society and in the absence of specific legal obligations, companies have no obligation to keep their workers on payroll during an economic slowdown or use government stimulus funds to actually benefit those governments hope to target. We argue that relying on private actors to take measures which they have no obligation to take and are disincentivised to take is neither responsible nor sustainable. It causes private actors to shoulder a disproportionately low portion of the burden of a crisis, leaving governments to, in the unique circumstances of a prolonged global health crisis, spend public funds at an unsustainable rate. We further argue that the current framework, aimed at helping unemployed workers, provides perverse incentives and encourages companies to lay off their workers. Absent changes to this framework, our response to global health crises is bound to be inadequate.
Keywords: health crisis, coronavirus, COVID-19, private sector, government, virus, public health, employment insurance, unemployment, banking, finance, lending, financial crisis, corporate social responsibility, taxation, public law, interest rate, stimulus, GDP, layoff, business, regulation, gig economy
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