From the outset, too, long-term questions were emerging about the ‘post-Covid’ world. Such questions risk wishful thinking. Will the world indeed ‘emerge from crisis’, or are we now compelled to recognise that the concept of a ‘crisis-free existence’ is mere complacency? A public health specialist estimates that, even given a promising new treatment for those with severe symptoms, we must learn ‘to live with this virus for the months and years to come’. In any case the language of a ‘return to normality’ implies a complacent myopia that can prescind from violence and mass suffering elsewhere: the reality of 5.4 million lives lost by violence over the decade of civil war and its aftermath in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, rarely troubled news media in the UK or USA.
Perspective, too, is crucial. What ‘world’ are we discussing, and seen from where? From China or Central America, or Amazonia? From Wall Street or Westminster? We need a typology of crises. We cannot dispense with the perspective of global poverty and inequality. But urgent security issues also arise. The Council of Europe’s Committee on Counter-Terrorism has warned that the global coronavirus outbreak could encourage the use of biological weapons by terrorists. Their potential harm far outweighs ‘conventional’ attacks and currently the world’s government and security resources are severely stretched. Similarly, imagine the devastation inflicted by a successful cyber-attack on a country’s healthcare system.