Diamond Princess coronavirus quarantine ship
The Diamond Princess sits docked in Circular Quay, Sydney in 2009 (Image: AAP/Paul Miller)

The greatest theft of our time remains the constant transfer of wealth from the young to the old. Almost every government policy in Western countries has exacerbated this — the most significant being low interest rate settings (which has facilitated massive government debt, and represents the old borrowing from the young, as well those not yet born). Property taxes (or lack thereof) and education costs are bit players in the swindle.

But is the reaction to COVID-19 yet another example of this?

There’s no doubt a lot of people will tragically die as a result of the flu-like virus. Many will perish by the time a vaccine or viral treatments are functional.

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But also consider this: lots of people die every day and we don’t do anything about it. By imposing massive restrictions on business and movement, we’re essentially spending resources to prevent one cohort (old people) from dying. Those aged over 65 have around an 8% fatality rate from COVID-19; if you’re under 40, it’s almost 0%.

Just to clarify: people dying is not a good thing, old or young. But, the better question is will more people die as a result of resources being devoted to COVID-19 than to other diseases which are already killing people?

So far, around 3000 people have died from COVID-19. However, in 2017, more than 800,000 kids aged under five died from lower respiratory infections. Another 600,000 young kids died from diarrheal diseases; more than 350,000 died from malaria; and shockingly, 145,000 died from nutritional deficiencies. Those are figures from just one year.

In short, we let poor kids die and no one seems to care. But when an 80-year-old dies on a cruise ship, it’s a global emergency.

The world has limited resources to save lives. The question is which lives should we be saving?

Adam Schwab is a company director, angel investor and author of Pigs at the Trough: Lessons from Australia’s Decade of Corporate Greed.

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