Coronavirus: China’s Perfect Storm?

This could be worse than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002/3. Vlogger and former China-based businessman Matthew Tye (aka ‘laowhy86’) says that the new strain of coronavirus seems to be more transmissible than SARS; and early indications are that more people are dying than recovering. That makes the need for containment even more urgent.

Yet officials have been slow to admit the problem and respond accordingly, so exacerbating the spread of the disease. The first case appeared in Wuhan on 8 December, but a planned food-sharing public banquet for 100,000 people there went ahead on 18January, by which time 49 cases had already been made public, and the next day the populace was assured that the sickness was not very infectious. When a number of performers fell ill during the Government’s New Year celebrations on 21 January the State media merely praised them for carrying on with the show and showing great spirit. The following day came the order to wear masks (not enforceable with fines until a week later), and on 23 January Wuhan was finally quarantined and the airport closed. However, by this time five million people had already left the area and passengers had been allowed onto planes if they showed no symptoms, which unfortunately in the case of this virus take a long time to manifest themselves – as the authorities already knew - so many infected persons may have travelled out by air.

As China urbanises, many millions of people are moving around the country in pursuit of work. For example in Wuhan’s province of Hubei, the 2000 national census showed 2.8 million migrants  moving north to Beijing and south to Guangdong (both c. 700 miles distant) and to other coastal cities. This central region is well served with modern rail and road networks, and although Wuhan’s airport is now shut, there are huge numbers of other aviation routes in China, both internal and international, so air travel threatens to be an especially powerful disease vector.

The initial concern of officials, says Tye, was to suppress news of the outbreak. Eight people were arrested on 1 January for talking about the existence of the virus, and on 14 January media reporters were detained and their phones and cameras searched for information. By the end of the month the government was still arresting those who spoke out, and (26 January) banning articles on the internet.

Fellow vlogger and Tye associate Winston Sterzel (aka ‘serpentza’) reports on a doctor who treated the first cases and informed his clinical WeChat messaging group on 30 December, telling them not to make it public for fear of being closed down, but to warn family and friends. The authorities picked up on this and made him sign an undertaking not to spread rumours: ‘If you continue to be stubborn and don’t repent […] you will be punished to the full extent of the law! Do you understand?’ Subsequently he contracted the virus himself and is still fighting for his life.

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Roger Morris 7 months ago Member's comment


Alpha Stockman 7 months ago Member's comment

Doctors in Taiwan have made some significant progress with a cocktail of flu drugs and HIV medicines. Apparently it significantly helped those who were infected including a 70 year old woman who has now fully recovered. So there is hope. (Source: CNN).

Rolf Norfolk 7 months ago Author's comment

The HIV connection is odd.

Alpha Stockman 7 months ago Member's comment

Yes, it is. I thought so too. Though Zero Hedge has reported about the odd HIV connection. It's not on TalkMarkets' main site but you can read it on Zero Hedge's TM personal blog:

Gary Anderson 7 months ago Contributor's comment

This is worth the read. Will the disease morph into a severe killer, percentagewise?

Rebecca Duncan 7 months ago Member's comment

If they don't find a cure, yes it will. Even with a low death rate, if enough people get infected, the death toll will be very high.

Rolf Norfolk 7 months ago Author's comment

Obviously I don't know and viruses can and do mutate. But you bet our scientists are on it. The biggest worry must be for the poor Chinese - all those millions in the sticks. Thanks for your appreciation.

Backyard Hiker 7 months ago Member's comment

Yes, I've been following the progression closely and I'd say that the poor people in China are in big trouble - the situation will only get worse, much worse. And even though the mortality rate is relatively low, it will decimate their economy.

Rolf Norfolk 7 months ago Author's comment

When they reviewed the stats in 2003 the overall figure was higher, esp. for the over-65s:

But in the current case there is concern that this virus seems more transmissible (the doctor who handled the first cases has come down with it, and presumably he will have taken all possible precautions); and the delay in tackling the problem has allowed millions of potential carriers to move out of area. The timing is terrible - imagine an outbreak in the US around the Thanksgiving homecoming period.

Beating Buffett 7 months ago Member's comment

While I agree with most of this, what evidence shows that the #coronovirus is so deadly? Everything I've read has put the death rate at only about 2%, as opposed to about 10% for SARs.

Ayelet Wolf 7 months ago Member's comment

Yes, this map tracks the virus in real time:

As of a few minutes ago, out of the 14,637 confirmed infections, recoveries have outpaces deaths - 443 vs. 305. Of course these are just the official counts. It's likely considerably higher.

Duanne Johnson 7 months ago Member's comment

How can the mortality rate be only 2% if those who died from the disease are almost equal to those who have recovered. Seems almost like 50/50 to me.