Combating the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Role of the SARS Imprint
30 Pages Posted: 7 Apr 2020 Last revised: 19 Jun 2020
Date Written: June 3, 2020
This paper documents a strong delayed response to COVID-19, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus in countries that did not encounter the SARS disease in 2003. The SARS outbreak was caused by a similar virus, SARS-CoV-1. Individuals in countries that developed SARS infections in 2003 search more intensively for COVID-19-related information on Google during the first outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, in late January 2020. Governments in countries that have not experienced SARS respond significantly slower in implementing containment measures to combat COVID-19 than countries that have experienced SARS. Furthermore, the timely responses of individuals and governments are more pronounced in countries that reported deaths caused by SARS, which left deeper imprints. Consequently, COVID-19 case numbers and mortalities have been substantially higher in countries that did not experience SARS deaths. Our findings suggest that the imprint of the early experience of similar viruses is a fundamental mechanism underlying timely responses to COVID-19.
Keywords: COVID-19, Imprint, Early Experience, Delayed Response
JEL Classification: D83, E70, H12, I10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation