The economic impact of Ebola: Panicking only makes it worse

Keep calm and carry on

ONE of the first casualties of any epidemic is tourism. The outbreak of Ebola in west Africa provides the latest evidence. “The Ebola scare is really affecting bookings,” says Darren Julyse, a manager with a boutique hotel group in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city and its commercial capital. “A lot of big companies are putting on travel restrictions.”Nigeria has registered just two deaths from Ebola. Business has suffered more in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the virus has killed over 1,000 people in all. Government restrictions on the movement of goods and people have halted commerce in some areas. Cross-border markets have been shut down, stripping vendors of their one source of income. Farmers have fled affected zones, leaving crops to rot in the fields.Governments and aid groups will probably spend hundreds of millions of dollars containing Ebola and caring for its victims. But the cost to the affected economies could well exceed the medical bills. The extent of the damage will depend on how far the disease spreads and how long the outbreak lasts. Already the World Bank has revised down its economic-…

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