Politicians, said the historian A.J.P. Taylor, do not create the current of events. They can only float along with them and try to steer. But he was talking about the long contours of European history, not the sudden and shocking arrival of a global pandemic. How to float along and steer through something that looks like an overwhelming tsunami is, largely, unknown.
The outbreak of coronavirus has already put much of the world in lockdown. It has pushed the global economy into freefall, killed more than 13,000 people and could yet kill hundreds of thousands more, perhaps millions.
It will also have big political effects. Leaders, governments, even ideologies will be judged according to how well they meet the crisis and the fallout.