The coronavirus outbreak requires action from governments around the world. This includes policies to protect the health of citizens and to support the economy, all while safeguarding governments’ financial stability. This column draws on experiences from past viral outbreaks to outline ten lessons for calibrating the correct policy response. Funding for health care systems should be prioritised, and targeted support for households and businesses is crucial. The rising costs and decreasing revenues for governments will also be challenging, and will likely require assistance from central banks as well as international and regional institutions.