Before and after: The unforeseen consequences of coronavirus


Is human civilisation not so all-powerful after all? When bubonic plague killed off as much as one third of Europe's population in the 14th century, they barely heard about it in Asia and certainly were oblivious in the Americas. Today, the world is so interconnected that an unexpected outbreak of a far, far milder disease is enough to disrupt worldwide supply chains and spread fear in real time to the five continents.


A coronavirus but also an individual spat can snowball. When the crown prince of Saudi Arabia reacts to the sudden slowdown of the planet by starting a bidding war with Russia, that sends oil prices tumbling and tests the resiliency of third parties like Venezuela and Iran that depend on oil revenue for their regime's survival. 

Is the current crisis an argument for more transparency, globalisation and the respect of binding rules that federate citizens the world over? Or a case for less reliance on abroad and more strongman reactivity in times of crisis? China, where the leader visited the epicentre of Wuhan for the first time since the outbreak, claims its lockdown has worked and that it's turning the corner. We test that claim and, more broadly, ask what lessons we will remember once the worst is over. 

Produced by Charles Wente, Juliette Laurain and Marion Lefevre.

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