The basic measures are almost ridiculously simple – wash your hands, stay away from people and pay attention to the alert levels. But in practice the economic, social and psychological consequences are potentially devastating, proving how much we depend on being close to other people.
This is life during wartime. It's even been compared by some to 9/11, but more planes didn't keep flying into more towers day after day in that event.
In the past couple of weeks, individuals and governments have risen to the unique challenges of Covid-19 in inspiring ways. It hasn't been hard to find examples of humans at their best in ways both great and small.
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There was the tenant on Twitter almost in tears because she had a letter from her landlord telling her not to worry about the rent if things took a turn for the worse because they would work something out.
There was Christchurch's volunteer student army activating "our pandemic plan". Who knew they had one? Who was surprised to find out that they did?
There were Judi Dench, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Brooks and all those other celebrities posting their strangely morale-boosting, homemade community service videos.
Orchestras and opera companies and other entertainers ramped up their live-streaming, performing to empty halls for people to enjoy their work at home.
We have seen businesses putting their employees ahead of profits by encouraging them to work from home and we'll work out the details later.
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Adaptive ingenuity has come into its own with the like of the Women's Bookshop (and many others around the world) creating drive-throughs, in their case by quietly appropriating the loading zone around the corner – text ahead and they will bring the books out to you.
There are big lessons being learnt.
Such as not to base a large part of your economy on any one industry. Now closed to outsiders, Venice has had an astonishing 70 per cent of its economy wiped out. Tourism is our biggest single industry and the one most likely to be affected by closed borders and self-isolation.
We've had a vivid reminder of the state of the environment as it is and as it could be with a sharp reduction in air pollution in places – parts of China and northern Italy – where the virus has reduced traffic.
The potential of the internet as a way for people to connect remotely is being realised in unprecedented ways. It's given us live-streaming technology for everything from cultural events to funerals and weddings to be available to people who otherwise would not be able to participate. Online commerce and socialising are becoming increasingly effective.
At the risk of sounding like your grandfather who lived through World War II and the Great Depression, some people are discovering the value of learning how to go without.
This is one fast-moving pandemic and so have been the responses. It's possible that by the time you read this the Government will have acted to close schools and ban visitors to aged-care facilities, both high-density incubators for any kind of illness Most schools should be able to adapt – we used to have an efficient Correspondence School system that was ideal for this, but rescheduling holidays is an option.
And when this is all over we can note that if we can do it for the coronavirus, we can do it for our planet and apply the lessons learnt to the climate crisis. For now, though, the most important lesson of all has been summed up by neurosurgeon and CNN medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta: "Never, I think, have we been so dependent on each other, at least not in my lifetime, and we should rise to that occasion."