At slightly different speeds and in slightly different ways, the nations of the Western world are now moving together into Phase II of their response to the Wuhan virus. How hard lockdowns are being lifted will vary according to local conditions, but we now have confidence that the toll from the bug can be controlled if necessary. Now we know the brakes work, it's time to take our foot from the brake pedal.
It will change our behaviour for ever, just as AIDS did in the early '80s. Even if the Wuhan virus proves a great deal less lethal and much less transmissible - it's native R0 of ~2.3 is around half that of ~4.6 for AIDS - its character may mean that we must protect the old and vulnerable whilst the rest of us carry on as normal, polarising society. Grandparents would be separated from their grandchildren, the morbidly obese would need either to lose weight or adopt leper lifestyles and the immunocompromised remain behind closed doors.
Pressure will now be intense on the world's indigenous peoples to stop eating bats and monkeys - too many novel diseases have sprung from this practice, distasteful to Western tastes, since jet travel and increased prosperity enabled enhanced transmission. And China must stop sending her diplomats to lie and evade responsibility for the Wuhan virus; listen if you will to Friday's World at One interview with Chen Wen, China's deputy ambassador to the UK (from about 11:06 to 28:30). It's a stunning display of authoritarian delusion. No wonder the government have now removed the China line from the daily Covid-TV graphs - it's pure fiction. She also denied that China had any 'wet' markets at all that sold bats, beavers, badgers and other wild animals, dead and alive - not so she said. China had farmers' markets, which sold fresh meat and vegetables. Well, I've been to Blackheath farmers' market a few times and have never found live eating-snakes and Pangolin chops on the stalls there. Tom Tugendhat is actually right about China - I just wish he was a little more articulate and animated about it. And it's not just China. Africans must either close down their bushmeat markets or their visitors must face a month's quarantine before those wealthy corrupt ministers' wives, fat as butter, can spend their stolen cash in Bond Street.
Phase II will also introduce enhanced national security measures not unrelated to our having left the EU. Our waters and the fish that dwell in them have now become a national security asset in a way they weren't in December. There is zero chance that we'll now trade away even a scintilla of control. The new quarantine requirements for visitors will become a permanent feature - at least the requirement for visitors to register an address, for track-and-traceability. No great novelty there for anyone who knows Europe and has completed a fiche or meldezettel at a hotel or rented villa.
As for forecasts that Phase II will see the demise of cash - I'm not convinced. Oh for sure, our steel and nickel coins and plastic and paper notes are filthy, but that hasn't always been the case. Both silver and copper have strong antiviral properties, and I'm sure it is not beyond the wit of man to incorporate silver or copper ions in banknote 'paper'. Till-draw cavities could also be internally flooded in UV to allow constant viral destruction. Cash expresses our freedom from absolute State control, and we'd be foolish to allow it to be taken from us even at this time.
The debates, the research, the policy trials and errors will continue into Phase II. We don't yet have the answers, but we approach the next stage with greater confidence in ourselves and our abilities. Let's just ensure the world on the other side is a better one, albeit a different one, to that in 2019.