ONCE THE rich world emerges from lockdown, what will life be like? If China’s experience so far is any guide, harder. Measures to hold the coronavirus at bay while keeping economies running could mean a reduction in GDP of 10%. The 90% economy will by definition be smaller, as fear of catching covid-19 may inhibit people from going to pubs and restaurants or taking flights, and anti-viral precautions make workplaces less productive. But it will also be more fragile, less predictable, less innovative and less fair. The decline in output will be concentrated in labour-intensive industries, such as hospitality, where jobs are badly paid, cannot be done from home and more likely to be filled by the young, women and immigrants. For some, a lost decade looms.
Three-quarters of the world’s children live in countries where classrooms are closed. As lockdowns ease, schools should be among the first places to reopen. Children seem to be less likely than adults to catch covid-19. And the costs of closure are staggering: in the lost productivity of homeschooling parents; and, far more important, in the damage done to children by lost learning. The costs fall most heavily on the youngest, who among other things miss out on picking up social and emotional skills; on those due to take exams; and on the less well-off, who are less likely to attend online lessons and who may be missing meals as well as classes. West African children whose schools were closed during the Ebola epidemic are still paying the price.
When America’s covid-19 outbreak began, Joe Biden held a slight edge in opinion polls over President Donald Trump. Despite all that has happened since, Mr Biden’s lead hasn’t changed much. Yet our statistical analysis—which sorts Americans into 380,000 distinct groups, according to nine demographic and geographical markers—suggests that his position has strengthened. Mr Trump is doing a bit better with blacks and Hispanics than in 2016. But Mr Biden is polling 11 points higher than Hillary Clinton did in states where white working-class voters make up the largest share of the electorate. That gives him a slight lead in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all of which Mrs Clinton lost narrowly but decisively. Were the election held tomorrow, Mr Biden would probably become America’s 46th president.
An alarming amount remains unknown about the virus that causes covid-19. One unknown is whether people, once infected, are immune to reinfection. Evidence from other coronaviruses can give clues. But tests for antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 are not yet reliable; and, to complicate the picture, immunity is also possible without antibodies. Also unclear is exactly how the virus spread to humans, almost certainly from bats. But there is no evidence for claims that the original outbreak was connected to genetic research in Wuhan, the Chinese city where it was first spotted (even though Donald Trump claims otherwise). A lab there has carried out work on making viruses more pathogenic, as do others around the world. Though doubts will continue to swirl, that seems to be almost certainly a coincidence.
Amid the global pandemic, it is easy to forget the world’s many sources of misery that predate it. Yemen’s civil war grinds on. On April 25th the war, which pits a coalition led by Saudi Arabia against Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, became more complex still. A group called the Southern Transitional Council, which is allied with the Saudis and controls the southern port of Aden, declared “self-administration”. In Libya, another Arab country torn by civil war, Khalifa Haftar, a warlord who is fighting the UN-backed government, has declared a ceasefire for Ramadan. In fact, General Haftar’s men have shelled hospitals in Tripoli—although elsewhere in western Libya the government, with help from Turkey, has lately had him on the back foot.