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Better Containment but Less Health Access: How past exposure to health crises affects the Covid-19 response

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This paper provides micro evidence for one mechanism behind the dramatically different political responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, namely how an increase in the perceived risk of Covid-19 among individuals stemming from past exposure to similar health crises generates citizen demand for containment measures.

Exploiting exogenous variation in exposure to the 2014 Ebola outbreak across villages in Sierra Leone, it finds that past exposure leads to significant increases in risk perception regarding Covid-19 and trust in health professionals among households. It then shows that this also translates into Ebola-affected villages being significantly more likely to have organized the public distribution of face masks. However, the increased caution comes at the cost of reduced health access, as households in Ebola affected villages are more likely to avoid health clinics during the pandemic out of fear of contracting Covid-19.

Authors:

  • Philipp Kastrau

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