Viviana Egidi (Sapienza University of Rome), Piero Manfredi (University of Pisa)
The first wave – likely not the unique - of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is ravaging the planet from a few months only and yet, in order to describe its dramatic demographic and socio-economic impact, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic and the Great 1929 recession have been already evoked. Although the ultimate outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic depend still on a wide number of unknowns, yet it is becoming clear that its consequences were largely modulated by a number of existing inequality gradients. And in turn, these gradients might dramatically worsen for long time in the future as a consequence of the pandemic. Assessments of these phenomena and the underlying causes, as well as the direct and indirect implications of current and future control measures, is critical for driving the world population out of the crisis.
This Genus Thematic Series aims to offer an updated examination of the key population dynamics and demographic and socio-economic implications of the Covid-19 pandemic – and of policies to face it – at a range of geographic, socio-economic, socio-demographic, and temporal scales.
The demography of Covid-19
With its peculiar epidemiological features and its burden of serious morbidity and mortality, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the responsible of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, has proved able to threat the hospitals systems of modern industrialised countries even with large-scale interventions enacted. Covid-19 has shown to be highly selective in both symptoms onset, serious disease, and its subsequent outcomes. Indeed, despite the many unknowns, evidence of dramatic gradients in attack rates and mortality in relation to differences in e.g., age, gender, geographic setting, socio-economic status, and pre-existing health conditions (e.g., presence on comorbidities), has emerged.
Also, the interventions that have been enacted in different settings worldwide to control this epidemic wave have been far from neutral. Not to say about the interventions that will have to be enacted in the future to prevent or mitigate the effects of possible further waves.
Following China, a number of western countries have aimed at epidemic control, or even epidemic suppression, by large-scale social distancing measures (“lockdown”). This was unavoidable to prevent the collapse of hospital systems and the resulting bulge in mortality. However, these measures, often different between and even within countries, showed different mitigation results depending on a number of factors including the scale of the epidemic at lockdown time, the organization and preparedness of the public health system, the adhesion to lockdown etc. Moreover, they are bringing profound effects on communities, by severely conditioning individuals’ lifestyles and behaviours. Pairwise, lockdowns are having severe economic implications for both workers and firms. And the interventions currently on discussion in different countries in the attempt to mitigate the dramatic effects on the economies, particularly on the labour market, are at risk of increasing inequalities within and between countries, and especially between rich and poor settings. Indeed, what the pandemic outcome in poor countries, or in poor resource settings, will be, is currently unclear due to the paucity of data. However, the lack of adequate public health resources implies that most of the response to the pandemic threat can only take place at the community level, which might make the eventual impact dramatic. Overall, the ultimate magnitude of Covid-19 epidemic in these settings will be determined by factors rather different compared to industrialised countries e.g., the interplay between the age distribution and other factors such as malnutrition, comorbidities, local conflicts, the cumulated impact of climate change, etc.
Overall, the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to produce dramatic health, socio-demographic, and economic effects, of both direct and indirect type such as e.g., the morbidity and mortality effects due to delays of critical medical and prevention activities due to priority given to Covid-19 patients, or to the lockdown. Family life courses are equally likely to be affected. The COVID-19 pandemic is generating rising levels of uncertainty, which makes increasingly difficult for young individuals predicting their future, and choose between alternatives and strategies. These processes, that will occur at a range of temporal (short, medium and long-term), spatial, and other (e.g., age and gender) scales, are likely to increase current inequalities and generate new ones, thereby profoundly impacting on life conditions, social structures, and the resulting demographic behaviour of different populations.
By this Thematic Series entirely devoted to Covid-19 pandemic, its population dynamics and consequences, Genus aims at fostering discussions on the aforementioned processes by a range of multidisciplinary and comparative approaches. Submitted contributions should address the following challenges:
- Which conditions and factors explain the differences in the ultimate size of this Covid-19 epidemic wave that will be observed between and within countries and territories, by age and gender, by socio-demographic groups, and so forth?
- How will population level immunity be distributed at the end of this wave within and between countries and regions? Which is the true scale of Covid-19 mortality? Particularly, which factors will ultimately explain the dramatic gradients in Covid- 19 mortality within and between countries and territories, and between age and other population groups?
- Are current modelling tools of epidemic spread and related mortality adequate to explain a global phenomenon as Covid-19 pandemic? Or new tools should be designed?
- Will Covid-19 pandemic and the enacted control measures modify, or amplify known health inequalities? And will impact on known social and economic inequalities?
- What should we learn in terms of effective strategies aimed to preventively identify, and protect, more vulnerable or fragile groups during “normal” vs crisis periods?
- Which will be the impact of the pandemic on family life courses? For example, which effects can be expected for reproductive behavior and family dynamics? And to what extent this impact will depend on the different intervention policies enacted in the different countries and territories?
- What should we learn from the current pandemic wave in terms of protection of population and socio-economic structures against the likely future Covid-19 waves – given the levels of acquired immunity and the absence of a vaccine – and in general against pandemic risks – taken as a rule rather than exceptional events.
- What types of (new, harmonised) data will be critical to better understanding and managing health emergencies due to pandemic waves?
Submission deadline: September 30, 2020