Prioritise vulnerable individuals for home deliveries

Blog -

If they did not already know, supermarkets will find out where society’s vulnerable members live.

During the weeks ahead, the government will have to make many more decisions that even affect people’s home lives. Sandra Phlippen Chief Economist ABN AMRO

Older people and people with a condition that makes them vulnerable to infection are being told to avoid any form of human contact just now. This includes possible interactions in the supermarket. Fortunately, supermarkets provide a delivery service: sitting safely at your computer, you place your order and have your groceries delivered to your front door. Mostly, these days, you do not even have to take the bags from the delivery person’s hands.

In normal times, people who run the greatest risks from human interaction would be willing to pay more to use this delivery option. Delivery services would charge such high rates that the first pick goes to people who really need them. If any capacity remains once all those people have booked their deliveries, anyone who sees delivery as a useful option instead of a strict necessity then ‘joins’ the market for home delivery.

But these are not normal times. Delivery services are booked full for weeks, and have no more room to schedule more deliveries – at least here in Rotterdam, where I live. Luckily for me, I can send my husband out to do the groceries shopping, but not everyone who is stuck in preventative quarantine has that luxury.

In times like these, the government needs to seize control where market forces fall short. It is the same as after a major flood: the government decides what forms of economic activity have priority, and provides those lines of business with extra production capacity. Now, the government is doing something similar: the healthcare capacity needs to be increased, for example, and so companies that manufacture ventilators are being ordered to produce that equipment only. Technical universities are being drafted in to support healthcare technology. In the labour market, rules are being relaxed to allow people who are still being trained – and people who have retired or who have made a career switch – to take up work in the healthcare sector without the necessary papers.

Further intervention along these lines is needed. For example, the government could order delivery services to prioritise society’s vulnerable groups, people who have no alternative but to have their groceries delivered. Healthcare professionals, too, who spend their days working unimaginably hard, would be greatly served by not having to queue in the supermarket – if only to avoid infecting other shoppers, given the high risk of contagion that healthcare workers run.

During the weeks ahead, the government will have to make many more decisions that even affect people’s home lives. Another area where this is needed is the food supply chain: those migrant workers who returned home for the winter will not be coming back, meaning possible labour shortages in the food supply chain, where many of them work.

All this will remind some of my older readers of the days when food was rationed. It will also cost us our privacy: if they don’t already know, supermarkets will find out where society’s vulnerable members live. I hope that the government will extract promises from them to delete our information once it is no longer needed.

Every week, Sandra writes a newspaper column for daily newspaper AD (in Dutch only), which can also be read here.

Share

Join the discussion

ABN AMRO would like to know your opinion, so below this article you can react to this article via Disqus. By doing so, you agree to the conditions for reacting to articles on our website.

More blogs