Going viral


This latest report from UK think tank the IEA looks at the history and economics of pandemics.

In the modern world, since the 1770s, we have had a series of pandemics, with a series of cholera ones in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and a series of five influenza ones since 1890. Further back there have been truly massive pandemics that killed a significant part of the world’s population. Even the milder modern ones have had significant effects. The Covid-19 virus has several features that mean it poses a more severe challenge than influenza pandemics such as those of 1957-8 or 1968-9 (although a repeat of one of them would be bad). In particular it threatens to cause a collapse of hospital systems through a high number of serious cases arising in a short period of time. It is this, rather than lethality, that has driven most of the response.

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