Workers disinfect a pavement in a near-deserted Venice, Italy. Photo: AFP

Remarkable and frightening events are underway across Europe and the United States.

Under the banner of novel coronavirus control, democracies are restricting basic freedoms – of movement, of association, of worship. They are enforcing local or nationwide curfews and lockdowns that will inevitably have a ruinous economic impact – especially for small businesses that need cash flow. In the “borderless” EU, borders are suddenly back, and the EU is announcing a 30-day ban on outsiders’ entry.

These steps are unprecedented in peacetime – and draconian. While Covid-19 is a highly infectious but low-mortality illness, many governments are benchmarking their responses on the very worst outbreaks – China’s Wuhan and Northern Italy.

Meanwhile, worst-case scenarios are being routinely bandied about by experts and regurgitated by politicians, panicking the public. Could there be another way to bring the virus under control – without lockdowns or travel bans?

Success story

The EU and US are instigating extreme and frankly authoritarian measures while overlooking the experience of a fellow democracy that was, until last week, the second most infected country on earth.

That country, which has now slid down to fifth place on infection charts behind China, Italy, Iran and Spain, provides an exemplary record of pandemic control without trampling over basic liberties and commerce.