Economic literature is full of good advice to countries on how to deal with external economic “shocks”. Though no economic textbooks have yet been written on the unprecedented, “sudden-stop” economics associated with Covid-19, many older works still provide useful guidelines that can be adapted to current circumstances. In particular, it is crucial to retain a realistic grasp of the challenge and make hard  choices.

In confronting the Covid-19 pandemic, President Cyril Ramaphosa has already shown the necessary leadership, boldness and willingness to make difficult decisions, as the extension of the lockdown to April 30 demonstrates. Yet, as the president has acknowledged, whatever the merits of the data-driven health strategy behind the decision to extend the lockdown, the heavy damage to the economy and livelihoods is widely apparent...

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