Coronavirus: the 1914 comparison

This brief comparison between the 2020 pandemic and the outbreak of War in 1914 originated in a letter to a newspaper (which did not publish it). It is published here in case others wish to carry the argument further.
Covid-19 is rightly described as our biggest challenge since the Second World War. But the real comparison today is not with 1939, when everybody knew war was coming, but with the sudden and unforeseen catastrophe of 1914 which permanently changed the world. The murder of the Archduke on 28 June triggered confrontation between Austria-Hungary and Serbia, but for some weeks there were hopes of confining the problem to the Balkans. In late July, it became clear that Germany's decision to back its weaker ally in Vienna faced all Europe with engulfing disaster. Britain's declaration of War on 4 August was followed by the imposition of unprecedented levels of State control, accompanied by cheery confidence that "it would all be over by Christmas". The casualty lists from the Marne in September rammed home the grim truth that the struggle would be long and costly, both in lives and in resources. History never repeats itself exactly, but Wuhan has been our Sarajevo, and 1914, not the Blitz, is the parallel for this crisis.