Three months after reports emerged of a novel coronavirus spreading in central China, it is safe to say that our world, and all of our individual worlds, have been transformed by what has become a terrifying pandemic. Governments around the globe are taking unprecedented steps to restrict movement and limit social contact among their populations to contain that virus’s spread. Growing numbers of the world’s inhabitants are now living in either voluntary or imposed isolation, or preparing to do so.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been called the first truly global crisis since World War II. Arguably the climate crisis already has that dubious honor, but it is a slow-moving threat that makes it easier to delay action to counter it. By contrast, this pandemic is fast-moving and requires immediate action by every country in the world, making it a global challenge unlike any other we have yet faced.
The pandemic is also unique in that it has quickly upended several elements that we’ve come to associate with the humanitarian crises of the past half-century, if not longer.