IT is arguable whether the cost of precautions against the spread of coronavirus is proportionate to the number of lives they will save.

Whether one will feel in retrospect that we got the balance right may depend upon one’s relationship to those who die.

Yet, even if this epidemic is less severe than expected, we always face the possibility of one so devastating as to justify the most draconian of measures to hold it at bay.

There may have been people saying “We mustn’t interfere with trade” as the Black Death approached, but we know they soon had reason to regret this. It would be useful to treat our current situation as a rehearsal for such an event.

We need to develop the mental or moral preparedness to impose and accept a clamp down on international travel which is early and hard, even if the alarm may prove to be false. Otherwise we will be behind the game, waiting for public opinion to catch up and run ahead when it is too late.

Anyone who claims to agree with Greta Thunberg can hardly object to an occasional downturn in economic growth or a ‘no fly February’.

The dip in air travel after 9/11 showed that many travellers are willing to see their journey as non-essential when it is their own lives at stake. It is time for similar concern over bringing to others a virus which may be fatal for them.

John Riseley, Harrogate