Beware confident predictions of our future after the Covid-19 crisis. Our response to seismic change is often to entrench existing views
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If there is one thing everyone living through the Covid-19 emergency agrees, it is that it is unprecedented. Everyone is surely right about that. But what follows in politics, economics and social behaviour from that recognition? There is no agreement there. There are resemblances with wartime, of course, but Britain never went into almost total lockdown in wartime. There are echoes of past pestilences too, but these afflictions did not bring normal life to such a totalising standstill.
And these are only early days in a long process. Politicians are no better than anyone else at adjusting to radical change. As Boris Johnson’s uncertain initial messaging exemplified, adjustment takes time. The worst of the crisis is also yet to come. Covid-19 cases and deaths have not yet peaked. The outbreak may drag on for longer than we have yet grasped, or it may return. Pretending that life could be back to normal by Easter, as Donald Trump does, is delinquent. If the 1918-19 flu pandemic is a guide, the Covid-19 virus may be with us for a year.