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Major backlash looms if governments have got this wrong

Dan O'Brien


The world's reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic could have a devastating effect on livelihoods

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Hopes for vaccine against the coronavirus are on the rise today. Stock photo

Hopes for vaccine against the coronavirus are on the rise today. Stock photo

Hopes for vaccine against the coronavirus are on the rise today. Stock photo

In January 1919, the US was in the midst of the Spanish flu pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of young, healthy people would end up dead, a pattern replicated across the world at the time.

In that same month, the US government started measuring how much the nation's factories were producing each month. They initiated this vast and costly exercise because, on entering World War I less than two years earlier, they found that they did not know much about their capacity to make the weapons needed to fight the first major conflict of the industrial era.

As it happens, the third and final big wave of the Spanish flu hit the US in the spring of 1919. Those same figures show it had no significant effect on output from the country's factories.