Aubert, Cécile and Augeraud-Véron, Emmanuelle (2021) The relative power of individual distancing efforts and public policies to curb the COVID-19 epidemics. Plos One, vol. 16 (n° 5).

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Identification Number : 10.1371/journal.pone.0250764


Lockdown curbs the COVID-19 epidemics but at huge costs. Public debates question its impact compared to reliance on individual responsibility. We study how rationally chosen self-protective behavior impacts the spread of the epidemics and interacts with policies. We first assess the value of lockdown in terms of mortality compared to a counterfactual scenario that incorporates self-protection efforts; and second, assess how individual behavior modify the epidemic dynamics when public regulations change. We couple an SLIAR model, that includes asymptomatic transmission, with utility maximization: Individuals trade off economic and wellbeing costs from physical distancing with a lower infection risk. Physical distancing effort depends on risk aversion, perceptions of the epidemics and average distancing effort in the population. Rational distancing effort is computed as a Nash Equilibrium. Equilibrium effort differs markedly from constant, stochastic or proportional contacts reduction. It adjusts to daily incidence of hospitalization in a way that creates a slightly decreasing plateau in epidemic prevalence. Calibration on French data shows that a business-as-usual benchmark yields an overestimation of the number of deaths by a factor of 10 compared to benchmarks with equilibrium efforts. However, lockdown saves nearly twice as many lives as individual efforts alone. Public policies post-lockdown have a limited impact as they partly crowd out individual efforts. Communication that increases risk salience is more effective.

Item Type: Article
Language: English
Date: 7 May 2021
Refereed: Yes
Divisions: TSE-R (Toulouse)
Site: UT1
Date Deposited: 27 May 2021 15:57
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2022 11:22
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