The spread of the new coronavirus and COVID-19 has had a profound effect on the global economy in a staggeringly short space of time. The longer-term impact depends on how quickly the virus can be tackled.
When health authorities in Wuhan reported a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause on December 31 last year, it would have taken a supernatural degree of economic soothsaying to predict the carnage this "unknown cause" would have inflicted on the global economy by March 31, 2020 — the end of the first quarter of the financial year.
But things which would have been dismissed as impossible little more than a few weeks ago have become reality, all because of COVID-19.
Global stock markets have crashed by around 30% since the start of the year in most of the world's rich countries.
China, which bore the brunt of shutdowns in the first quarter, presented staggeringly bad data for the month of February. Some projections suggest Chinese GDP for the first quarter will fall by 10%.
It's not just the world's industrial powers where the impact is starkest. Ireland, an open economy with a low manufacturing base, is especially vulnerable to global headwinds. At the start of January, it had an unemployment rate of 4.8%, its lowest in 13 years.
By the end of March, it is estimated that the figure has swelled to a previously unimaginable 17%, a result of all the workers laid off due to nonessential businesses, restaurants, pubs and a whole host of other enterprises shuttered.
Without a doubt, although we will have to wait a little longer until official economic data for the first quarter and beyond confirms it. The question is if it will lead to a great depression and outstrip the financial crisis of 2009.
Not even real estate is safe from COVID-19
"If you look at the proportion of the global economy that is now affected by shutdowns, it is probably around 50% of global GDP and that doesn't actually include China because that is by and large out of the shutdowns now," Ben May, a global economist with Oxford Economics, told DW.
While he cautions that "it's more art than science" to come up with a figure of that kind, it does underline the scale of the problem the prolonged shutdowns present for the global economy.
The longer the shutdowns go on, the more damage is done. And no one knows exactly how long they will go on for. "Anyone who says they know how long the lockdowns are going to be clearly doesn't know," says May.
One of the major risks of prolonged shutdowns is that the crisis develops into a financial crisis, where there is a major credit crunch, as there was in 2009.
Banks, which bore the brunt of the blame for the financial crisis in 2009, are now ironically being seen as potential saviors in the current climate, with governments asking them to serve as a "transmission mechanism" to make sure money finds its way to businesses and consumers to keep them afloat until things get better.
"The peak impacts of the lockdowns in China were enormous," he says. "But there is better news in that as those lockdowns have been ended or at least relaxed we have seen a convergence towards what could be deemed more normal levels of activity."
He believes a more realistic scenario than a lockdown period extending well into the summer is that as the outbreak gradually comes under control in various countries, restrictions will be lifted incrementally, giving things a chance to slowly return to normal.
Others have even more optimistic views.
"Our main scenario is that economic activity will begin to recover in the second half of 2020, and given the major fiscal and monetary policy stimulation currently ongoing, the global economy will have very favorable conditions for accelerating again once the virus outbreak dies down," said Danske Bank Chief Strategist Henrik Drusebjerg recently.
Yet there is also another, slightly gloomier vision, of how the world's economic order may look once the crisis has passed, according to May.
Before the coronavirus swept the world, things such as the US-China trade war and a no-deal Brexit were seen as grave threats to the world economy. May says there is a chance that if the current crisis passes, policymakers may pivot away from such risky strategies.
However, he also sees the prospect of even more protectionist behavior, as a result of some of the issues thrown up by the pandemic.
"It may be a plausible strategy to say: We need to make sure we don't have these huge supply chains that stretch around the world, we need to make things at home, " he says. "And that's something which would pander to the Trump and Brexit narrative."