To understand how rapidly coronaviruses like COVID-19 can spread – and how to best control them — epidemiologists use data from past diseases. To understand and plan for the long term negative social consequences of epidemics, we can use the same approach.
Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), an extremely deadly coronavirus, was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Like COV-19 it leads to respiratory failures, and is especially deadly for older and immunocompromised people.
In June 2015, a serious outbreak of MERS happened in a hospital in Riyadh. It took several months to control it, and once the emergency room became a focus of transmission the hospital was shut down and evacuated. Many front-line health care workers were infected, but the good news was that all survived.