The publication of the national epidemiological model recently spread fear and dismay as it forecasts 40,000 deaths by November from Covid-19, with 1-million people falling ill. This sort of projection risks creating the perception that we cannot limit the contagion — that flattening the curve just means spreading out the timeline of people contracting Covid-19. It has become a reference point for the argument that we should just get on with our lives and drop the heavy burden of seeking to prevent infections.

In the real world, countries as diverse as Vietnam, New Zealand and Germany have demonstrated that it is possible to reduce the number of cases, not just to delay them. The key is to change social behaviour, reorganise work, public transport and retail, and implement strong public health measures to identify and isolate cases. The costs of these measures are high, but the savings in terms of lives, health-care spending and ultimately sustainable social and economic devel...

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