Combating the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Role of the SARS Imprint
32 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2020 Last revised: 2 Nov 2020
Date Written: November 2, 2020
We provide evidence of delayed attention and inaction in response to COVID-19 in countries that did not experience SARS in 2003. Using cross-country data, we find that individuals in countries that had SARS infections in 2003 search more intensively for COVID-19-related information on Google in late January 2020, the time of the first known outbreak in Wuhan, China. Early attention to the novel virus, as measured by Google searches, is associated with deeper stock market drops in countries with SARS experience. In contrast, people in countries without SARS experience started to pay more attention much later, in March. Moreover, governments in these countries responded significantly more slowly in implementing social distancing policies to combat domestic COVID-19 outbreaks than governments in countries with SARS experience. Furthermore, people in countries with SARS experience are more compliant with social distancing rules. These timely attention and proactive responses of individuals and governments are more pronounced in countries that reported deaths caused by SARS, which left deeper imprints. Our findings suggest that the imprint of similar viruses’ experience is a fundamental mechanism underlying timely responses to COVID-19.
Keywords: COVID-19, Imprint, SARS Experience, Delayed Response
JEL Classification: D83, E70, G10, H12, I10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation