Effective testing and tracing Covid-19 cases can reduce lost working hours by almost 50%, says ILO report

The ILO study estimates that countries with a robust testing and tracking system in place have lost only 7% working hours, compared to 14% in countries on the other end of the spectrum


                            Effective testing and tracing Covid-19 cases can reduce lost working hours by almost 50%, says ILO report
(Getty Images)
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Following the mantra of "test, trace, and track" can help rebuild the crumbling economy in the Covid-19 era. A new study claims that these measures can reduce the number of working hours lost to the disease by as much as 50%. The study by the UN's International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that countries with a robust testing and tracking system in place have lost only 7% working hours, compared to 14% in countries on the other end of the spectrum.

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The study holds lessons for countries that are now easing restrictions. "The crisis continues to cause an unprecedented reduction in economic activity and working time. Testing and tracing can help minimize disruptions in operations at workplaces," the ILO report read. According to the report, 94% of the workers live in countries that had some form of work closures. But more countries are now easing these measures to gradually allow workers to return to their workplaces, as at 17 May 2020, it added. Among regions, the Americas and Europe and Central Asia bear the biggest brunt of the devastation, with 13.1% and 12.9% lost work hours, respectively.

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The biggest victims of the Covid-19 era are young people. It has disrupted their education and training and has affected their chances of getting employed. "There is a risk that they will be scarred throughout their working lives – leading to the emergence of a 'lockdown generation', the report read. The report highlights another reality: young people tend to have low income and savings. ILO's analysis from 64 countries shows that the hourly earnings are, on average, 71% higher for prime-age adults than their junior counterparts.

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Unemployment applications are seen as City of Hialeah employees hand them out to people in front of the John F Kennedy Library (Getty Images)

One in six young people has stopped working since the pandemic took off. In the US, the unemployment rate in men aged 16-24 in April increased in just two months, from 8% to 24% in April.  Women in the same peer group suffered more losses, from 7.5% to 29.8%. Additionally, many have had income losses as well. About 46% of men and 38% of women across the globe are reporting a decline since the start of the outbreak. “The Covid-19 economic crisis is hitting young people – especially women – harder and faster than any other group. If we do not take significant and immediate action to improve their situation, the legacy of the virus could be with us for decades. If their talent and energy are side-lined by a lack of opportunity or skills, it will damage all our futures and make it much more difficult to rebuild a better, post-Covid economy," the ILO’s director-general Guy Ryder, told The Guardian.

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The ILO suggests testing and tracking could bring some respite to the vulnerable. “A track and test and trace system reduces reliance on strict confinement measures; promotes the public confidence and so encourages consumption and supports employment; and helps minimize operational disruption at the workplace.” It added: “Testing and tracing can itself create new jobs, even if temporary, which can be targeted towards youth and other priority groups.

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