COVID-19 economic scars may fade faster than we think

I wouldn’t put too much weight on the precise numbers, but the basic message is important. People didn’t lock down merely because governments told them to. Now the converse applies: just because shopping is legal again does not mean people will rush out to the shops.

In Germany, they did: Germans spent more in May 2020 than they did in May 2019, suggesting that not only were they willing to visit the shops, they wanted to make up for lost time. That is encouraging, but only up to a point. Germany had a good crisis by western standards, with fewer than 10,000 excess deaths, compared with 25,000 in France, nearly 50,000 in Italy and Spain, and more than 65,000 in the UK. The US is currently averaging about a hundred times as many daily new cases as Germany. Perhaps Germans feel safe because they are safe. Not everyone can say that.

Once the virus is suppressed, then a sharp recovery is possible. But might this experience leave a lasting mark on our thinking?