The world is changing by the hour. The biggest global health challenge in living memory is shutting the planet down. Countries from India to South Africa and the US to Brazil have seen what happened in China, and see what is unfolding in Europe. They are closing down travel, movement and commerce. The world is now on a war footing to fight the outbreak and its economic consequences.
The Irish government, like its counterparts across the world, is putting in place measures that would have been unthinkable just four weeks ago. Mistakes will be made, but in an emergency it is necessary to move fast. The cost of non-decisions can exceed the cost of bad decisions.
As the most powerful actor in any society, the State is the only entity that can mobilise and co-ordinate the resources to handle the sort of emergency that is unfolding. The multiple arms of the State also spend more money than even 100 of the largest companies. Targeting that vast financial firepower can make the difference between an awful outcome and an utter catastrophe.
On Tuesday, the Government announced a new support mechanism for workers in companies whose business has declined significantly or disappeared entirely. It will cost billions of euro over its 12-week timeframe. This (borrowed) money will bolster the incomes of workers who are laid off and those who fall ill.
This response is not as revolutionary as it might appear at first sight. Many continental countries have unemployment insurance schemes which pay out a high share of the income that has been lost in the initial period of unemployment. The payments then taper over time.
This is a much better system than the one we have long had in Ireland because it means that, for most people, the effect of losing one's job is not as damaging for a household's finance as going to Ireland's standard flat-rate jobseekers' allowance/benefit. From an economy-wide perspective, it also means that in a recession overall consumer firepower doesn't contract excessively.
Many of those who lose their jobs will spend all their welfare benefits meeting existing commitments. For those who have spare cash, it is vital for the wider economy that they spend it. The purpose of these much increased welfare payments is not that they end up sitting in banks. If they do, they won't go to businesses which are now starved of cash.
If you have the wherewithal, support local businesses as much as you can during the shutdown - in person if that is safe and online if it is not. Spending will benefit everyone.
It is imperative that as many businesses as possible come through the shutdown so that they can re-employ their staff and get trading again once the health issues become manageable. If that can happen, then there is still hope that the economy will have bounced back by mid-year.
Indeed, there is much more hope of this happening than there was the last time the country suffered a major shock - in September 2008 when the property bubble burst and the banks were on their knees.
A dozen years ago, tens of thousands of construction workers lost their jobs in a matter of months. It would have been madness for any government to try to save those jobs (a well-designed welfare system is about protecting the worker, not the job). It was clear by the nature of the collapse that too many houses and commercial premises were being built. The sector had to shrink.
As of a few weeks ago, there were no significant sectors in the Irish economy which were in such an unsustainable position and which needed to downsize. On the contrary, the economy was in a sweet spot - it was lean, competitive and growing rapidly.
It will not be possible simply to stop the clock and restart the economy when the health emergency is contained. Some businesses will die and some jobs will disappear permanently. But if the duration of the shutdown can be kept to weeks, rather than months, everything could be humming again by high summer.
Central to minimising the economic damage of the virus outbreak will be the capacity of the Government to borrow money. In this column last week, the risks around that were discussed. As the Thursday edition of this newspaper was being printed late on Wednesday night, some very reassuring news emerged from Frankfurt.
Ultimately, the European Central Bank will have to act as lender of last resort to governments in the euro area during the emergency. Up to midnight last Wednesday that looked considerably less certain than it does now. In the preceding days, two members of the ECB's main decision-making body had questioned the role of their institution in performing its function as the currency bloc's lender of last resort.
Then, after a night-long meeting, the ECB announced its 'Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme' which will see it effectively print €750bn in order to lend to governments (that will happen in an indirect way because direct ECB lending to governments is forbidden).
The bank left the door wide open to printing "as much as necessary and for as long as needed".
Agreement among the 19 countries which form part of the eurozone could yet break down on the role of the ECB. As such it would be wise for the State agency which borrows money on behalf of the Government - the National Treasury Management Agency - to start issuing IOUs with all due haste. As of yesterday, the only thing it had issued since the crisis erupted had been a rather bland statement about how "well placed" it is to borrow more.
The ECB announcement of last Wednesday night has meant that borrowing costs for the Government remain near historic lows - as of the close of business last evening, money could be borrowed for 10 years at a rate of interest of less than a third of 1pc. That's a steal in the current circumstances. The NTMA should bite the arms off investors willing to lend to it at those rates. It needs to hoover up as much cash as it can as fast as it can.
The Government is betting everything on a mass bailout of the economy. The bet is not without risk, but it is the least risky option now. Let's all hope that it pays off.