01 April 2020, The Tablet

The pain of this latter-day plague

Coronavirus pandemic

The pain of this latter-day plague

With isolation and shielding our key weapons in the fight against Covid-19, models of ministry from the age of cholera will not provide the pastoral care we need today

If you’ve seen one pandemic, you’ve seen … one pandemic. So the saying goes. I’ve worked through four (HIV, SARS, H1N1 flu, and now SARS-COV-2, to give Covid-19 its proper name). Everything I write here is open to correction. Much will be out of date before you read it.

In little more than three months, 724,000 have been infected worldwide (that we know of) and 34,000 have died. One – worst case – modelling suggests that in the absence of interventions, 7 billion people will be infected and 40 million will die by the end of the year. (In contrast, the UN estimates that it has taken 40 years for 32 million to die in the HIV pandemic, though HIV’s impact has in many ways been more sustained and worse than Covid-19’s.) We have neither vaccine nor mass antiviral drugs yet. Prevention is down to stopping the virus spreading.

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