It's not a choice between health and wealth. That is what some claim when it comes to suppressing the coronavirus. There is truth to this depiction. If the virus were to run rampant, not only would many more lives be lost, but fear would probably keep most people away from work.
Alas, though, is it not as simple as that. We now face difficult choices.
First things first. It needs to be repeated again and again: those with expertise in viruses and public health have only a partial understanding of Covid-19 and how it affects human health.
Much is still unknown. A great deal is still uncertain.
The choices around easing restrictions on movement and work will have to be made without the full facts. Risks will have to be run, as they always are in life. Trade-offs will have to be made, as each of us does thinkingly and unthinkingly all the time.
This column has never advocated a particular course of action on shutting down or opening up because I am not qualified to assess the public health side of the equation. Those with expertise in viruses and public health should lead the Government's decision-making on easing restrictions, as has happened to date.
But others should be involved, too. When something is affecting so many people's lives in so many different ways, those with expertise in other relevant areas need to interrogate the assumptions and thinking of the health experts. Multiple perspectives are needed in all complex decisions that affect so many people so profoundly.
The decision-making process will be informed in part by who is more affected by the virus.
So far in the Republic, four of the 719 people who have so tragically lost their lives as a result of the virus were under 35 years of age. The over-65s accounted for 92pc of deaths. This pattern, with the elderly at far greater risk than the young, appears universal.
Societies need to channel resources to protecting those most at risk and allow younger people to weigh up the risks of going back to work.
After the loss of life from coronavirus, one of the most important aspects of the pandemic is how people's livelihoods are being affected. The negative effect on livelihoods of shutting down the economy cannot be the determining factor in the choice to be made about easing restrictions, but it needs be one of the determining factors.
This week's figures on the numbers unemployed and the Department of Finance's analysis of the economic and budgetary outlook make it abundantly clear that we are facing a very difficult period even if the shutdown is gradually lifted. The mandarins fully acknowledge that if the restrictions don't ease in the weeks and months ahead, then it is not difficult to imagine a worse outcome than they set out in their main scenario.
In that scenario employment and economic activity will contract by around a 10th this year. Total government revenues will be €16bn lower than predicted at Budget time last October. Spending will be €5bn higher.
Tens of billions of euro will have to be borrowed to plug the gap between falling revenue and rising spending.
This scenario, to emphasise, is based on recovery starting during the summer. If it does not, and if tight restrictions are retained, the economic outcome will be even worse. That will have implications for the Government's budgetary position.
The Department of Finance said on Tuesday "a slower-than-expected economic recovery would expose a structural element to the deficit which would need to be corrected over time". In plainer English, that means cuts. That, in turn, is because the limits of how much the Irish State can borrow would eventually be tested, something the Taoiseach explicitly acknowledged on RTÉ's 'Prime Time' later that day.
If money can't be borrowed, the Government might simply not have the wherewithal to buy the drugs and equipment needed to treat the disease and to run the healthcare system more generally. It means nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers could face pay cuts, along with all other public sector workers (something hundreds of thousands of people in the private sector have already experienced or expect in the short term). These are now plausible outcomes on the horizon.
The scale of the private sector job losses was again underscored by analysis done by the Department of Finance. It estimated that four out of five of the 180,000 people who were working in the hospitality industry are now either on welfare benefits of some kind or are having their pay subsidised by the State.
Two out of three of the 150,000 who were working in the construction sector are in the same boat, as are half of people who made a living in the sports and entertainment field.
Let's conclude on a more hopeful note. "A rapid recovery to pre-pandemic levels of activity appears highly unlikely," the Department of Finance's economists wrote on Tuesday. This is too pessimistic. A rapid return to past levels of activity is indeed unlikely, and increasingly so by the day, but it is not "highly unlikely". A vaccine may come sooner than expected.
A major breakthrough in treatment is possible. It could be revealed when testing really ramps up that more people may have had the disease than is currently believed, which could mean we are close to 'herd immunity'.
If one or more of these things were to happen, the slump could prove to be less grim than many economists now fear. But if they don't, and if there are renewed outbreaks, it could lead to truly awful times.
We can hope for the best. But we need to prepare for the worst.