COVID-19 is considerably worse than seasonal flu, with much higher death rates in the elderly or people with other conditions. However the outbreak is likely to be less deadly than the Spanish Flu after WW1, which occurred before there were antibiotics to treat secondary infections and affected younger people.
It will take a minimum of 12 to 18 months before a vaccine is available. The spread of the virus can be controlled with lockdowns, but lockdowns cannot last forever: after a while people get fatigued and stop complying.
On a national level, there are two different strategies that can be taken, each with its own risks.
With a "Delay the onset" strategy, you can lock down as soon as possible. While things are locked down, it could be that the virus will disappear. It could mutate into a less dangerous form that still gives immunity. Better treatments might be developed. With luck, you might get away with hardly any deaths. However if none of those things happen, you risk emerging from the lockdown and being hit by a second wave of the virus: and now it's harder to enter a lockdown again.
The "Spanish Flu" started in 1917 and spread in several waves until 1919. The second wave of 1918 was the deadliest, but the third wave hit places that had been previously unaffected.
Alternatively, there is a "Flatten the Curve" strategy. Do not lock down completely but try to slow down the spread of the virus. Gradually put more lockdown measures in place if the virus seems to be spreading too fast. If successful, this means that your medical capacity is not overwhelmed and sufferers can be appropriately treated. If most of the population get the virus and acquire immunity this way, then there will be no further waves.
However, this strategy has risks. It might not be possible to flatten the curve: the healthcare system might be overwhelmed anyway. The immunity might not last: like the cold or seasonal flu, the virus might evolve into another form to which you don't have immunity.
We will not know which strategy is affected for a couple of years. If the "Delay the onset" countries don't get a second wave, then that strategy was best. If the "Flatten the Curve" countries (such as the UK) do flatten the curve, and there is a second wave, and immunity holds, then that strategy was best. At the moment, we do not know.
On an individual level, if you're in a vulnerable category, you need to protect yourself as much as possible. If you're not in a vulnerable category, you need to protect the vulnerable as much as possible, for instance by handwashing. But whatever measures you take are probably going to have to last a year or more. We need to avoid over-reacting at first then under-reacting when fatigue sets in.
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