Italy faces the same painful choices. The B117 variant is suddenly 18pc of cases. Health authorities are again calling for an immediate lockdown. Vaccination has been faster than in France but is constrained by the shortage of doses.
Premier Mario Draghi has had to kick off his tenure by blocking the reopening of ski lifts, setting off the first explosive divisions in his bizarre coalition. Italy risks losing the early summer tourist season as well. Mr Draghi cannot safely spend his way through another quarter of economic distress given a public debt ratio threatening to break through 160pc of GDP. He has a horrible dilemma.
For the OECD to conclude that Britain will be left behind this year by France and Italy, it has to make calamitous assumptions about Brexit. No such calamity is occurring. Nor is it likely to occur under any rigorous analysis of what constitutes authentic UK exports to the EU, as became clear in the faux media drama last week over JD Sports.
The company is a retailer. It is having trouble shipping clothes from its UK warehouse to shops in Europe because the goods come from China and southeast Asia. It will instead have to ship directly from the Far East to its EU locations. That is of no macroeconomic relevance to the UK. The re-exports by JD Sports may show up as large items in the UK trade balance but they add almost no value.
What we have had over the last month is decibel levels of noise over trade disruption but little clarity on economic scale or what may be permanent damage. Shellfish have been rotting in wharves because the EU has imposed an unexpected ban on live exports but the total value of these exports is £15m.
It is not beyond the wit of man to redirect most of this fish for internal consumption. If scallops, oysters, clams, and langoustines are not appearing already on our shop shelves, they will do soon so long as market forces are allowed to operate. I am salivating at the thought of fresh spaghetti alle vongole or Saint Jacques à la crème from our own waters.
The big container ports tell me that goods are flowing as normal. More ships are going directly from northern Spain to Liverpool and other ports, or from Antwerp to the Humber, instead of going by road. This is better for CO2 emissions and more efficient.
There was a January scare over lorry loads through the Channel but that is hard to separate from the other effects: stock-building before the Brexit deadline; people holding back until teething pains are over; and the B117 coronavirus variant. The worst has already subsided. “It is much-improved since mid-January,” said the Road Haulage Association.