Bits of news

A few little pieces of news from around the world

Welcome to Plugging the Gap (my email newsletter about Covid-19 and its economics). In case you don’t know me, I’m an economist and professor at the University of Toronto. I have written lots of books including, most recently, on Covid-19. You can follow me on Twitter (@joshgans) or subscribe to this email newsletter here. (I am also part of the CDL Rapid Screening Consortium. The views expressed here are my own and should not be taken as representing organisations I work for.)


There hasn’t been much going on of late that lent itself to the kind of dismal hot takes that this newsletter specialises in but there have been a few little bits of news that you might have missed.

First of all, in back to school news, Israel wants its schools open on September 1 and is going big to make it happen. For one, “Parents will receive vouchers through their health funds and be asked to take their children for rapid tests 48 hours before the start of the school year. Some 1.9 million students will be asked to take these tests.” That’s a good move but it is not really proactive. You need regular screening to really keep people safe. This seems like a once-off screen which is only of value for about a week. But it is a start.

In fact, this was the more important move:

When a sick student is discovered in a school, that student will enter isolation immediately. The other students or faculty members with whom the child has been in contact will undergo testing for seven days.

Each day, the contacts will be screened. If the tests are negative, they will go to school. If someone tests positive, he or she will be asked to be isolated.

The model will begin as a pilot program in the haredi schools and then be expanded into Arab schools and eventually, if effective, the rest of the education system.

Following by this philosophy:

“We need to uproot that word ‘closure’ from our discussions,” Intelligence Minister Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid) reportedly said during the discussions. “The very fact that we are talking about it is establishing a reality on the ground.”

This is excellent. It is the kind of pro-active but cautious approach that I would love to see adopted elsewhere over the “nope, nothing we can do, they can just go home” approach that seems to be pervasive. For parents not in Israel, Emily Oster helps you through the back-to-school risks.

Relatedly, the CDL Rapid Screening Consortium is onboarding schools. At the moment, only private ones have put their hand up to regularly screen when school opens. And some provinces still won’t let you screen the students! But if you are involved with a school and want to sign up, click here.

Second, Quebec is going the vaccine passport route by way of an app. This will be required for non-essential activities. And if you want to attend in-person classes at the University of Ottawa you will need to be vaccinated and that Quebec passport may help you show it.

Third, Germany has that and more. Its passport requires a vaccine or a negative test. That latter used to be free. No longer. Germany will stop paying for them. Think of it as a fine for not being vaccinated. In the Philippines, government welfare payments may stop for the unvaccinated.

Finally, a word of advice. As a cloud of doom continues to hang over us for the Fall, everyone should enjoy the summer while they can. It is important to do this to build up some mental resistance for the likely disruptions coming.