With the coronavirus crisis going from bad to worse, and governments around the globe fighting to deal with a pandemic that sadly has so far to run, there is one simple decision Boris Johnson should take without further ado.

It is not, unfortunately, a decision which would alleviate the immediate human cost of the Covid-19 coronavirus tragedy.

However, the UK Government and its counterparts around the world, as well as focusing on tackling the devastating effect of the virus itself on citizens from a public health perspective, have been seeking ways of minimising the impact on people’s living standards and limiting the overall economic damage.

The UK Government has understandably thrown many, many billions of pounds at attempting to alleviate the impact on people who become sick and at assisting companies and sectors which are being hammered by the crisis. The Scottish Government has also unveiled a raft of measures aimed at supporting businesses.

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One challenge for governments around the world is keeping up with the fast-developing economic ramifications of this crisis. This was highlighted yesterday with Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement of further sweeping measures, less than a week after he unveiled a multi-billion-pound package of support in his Budget last Wednesday.

As stock markets around the world have tumbled in recent weeks, amid massive uncertainty and a torrent of distressing news from Italy and elsewhere, fears of global recession have mounted.

It remains difficult to forecast the depth or duration of the economic effect with any degree of precision but the lengths that governments are going to, as they attempt to mitigate the damage, underline what is at stake in terms of living standards.

There has understandably been huge debate about the UK Government’s approach and whether enough is being done, from a health perspective, particularly in light of the Italian experience. And there has been a shift this week by Mr Johnson’s Government from mitigation to suppression.

This is a time of complex decisions with very far-reaching implications.

And the outlook is hugely uncertain.

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Against this backdrop, coronavirus rather than Brexit is rightly everyone’s focus just now.

That said, Mr Johnson’s Government should at this stage make the very simple decision to seek an extension of the transition period agreed with the European Union. And the EU should agree to it swiftly.

This transition period, due to end on December 31, has ensured that the biggest detrimental economic impacts of Brexit, in terms of loss of single-market membership, have not yet hit the UK. It has thus provided a valuable cushion.

Companies and organisations across all sectors have been able to continue to benefit from the contributions of employees from across the EU, and frictionless trade has gone on as normal.

The transition period was put in place to allow the UK time to negotiate a future trade agreement with the EU. The Conservative Government’s stated position is that it wants a comprehensive trade deal with the EU, even if its rhetoric has often seemed entirely at odds with this.

In any case, past experience of international trade agreements has for a long time now suggested there would be huge challenges in terms of trying to seal such a deal in the 11 months between Brexit on January 31 and the end of the transition period.

When Mr Johnson delivered his technical Brexit on January 31, there was absolutely no indication that the coronavirus outbreak was going to hit the UK and Europe as a whole in the way that it is now doing.

The Prime Minister has shown he is a man who likes setting deadlines.

With his emphatic General Election victory in December, he met his campaign pledge that the UK would leave the EU on January 31.

He had, of course, missed his previous deadline of October 31, as Parliament kept him in check.

Mr Johnson, in December, revealed he would introduce legislation to prevent the transition period being extended beyond the end of this year, and his Government duly followed through on this.

This always looked like folly at the time. After all, why would you box yourself into a corner?

In any case, we are now looking at a very different world to that we were in back in December, or even on January 31. Mr Johnson should take this on board.

International governments must work together in the drive to save many tens of thousands of lives as the coronavirus pandemic wreaks its havoc.

Cooperation will be key, as will learning lessons quickly, and acting with a common purpose.

This is not the environment in which to conduct trade negotiations with the EU.

Such discussions have proved to be most fractious over the years, with the UK Government having at times appeared to take a pugnacious and populist approach that has seemed to exasperate our EU neighbours. Conflict is the last thing anyone needs right now.

The sensible thing to do is put off what it appears from recent experience will inevitably be tough negotiations for another day, when the coronavirus crisis, or at least the worst of it, has passed. No one knows at this stage when that will be, which makes it all the more important to hit the pause button on exiting the single market. To stop the clock ticking down to a no-deal scenario.

Such an extension of the transition period might not seem like a big deal at the moment. However, months down the road, by which time the worst of the human tragedy that is the coronavirus outbreak will hopefully have passed, it will surely seem important.

Continued single-market membership can provide an important cushion amid this crisis. And one thing that no one needs, Remain and Leave voters alike, is another economic shock created by a no-deal Brexit coming hard on the heels of that arising from Covid-19.