It Is Easy to Overreact to the Chinese Coronavirus

Recently, a new coronavirus has been causing many illnesses and deaths. The virus first became active in Wuhan, China, but it has already spread to the rest of China. Scattered cases have been identified around the rest of the world as well.

There are two important questions that are already being encountered:

  • How much of an attempt should be made to limit the spread of the new virus? For example, should businesses close to prevent the spread of the virus?
  • Should this disease be publicized as being far worse than flu viruses that circulate each year and cause many deaths among the elderly and people in poor health? The median age of those dying from the new coronavirus seems to be about 75.

Unfortunately, there aren’t easy answers. We can easily see the likely outcome of under reaction. More people might die of the disease. More people might find themselves out of work for a couple of weeks or more with the illness. We tend to be especially concerned about ourselves and our own relatives.

The thing that is harder to see is that reacting too vigorously can have a hugely detrimental impact on the world economy. The world economy depends on international trade and tourism. China plays a key role in the world economy. Quarantines of whole regions that last for weeks and months can have a very detrimental impact on the wages of people in the area and profits of local companies. Problems with debt can be expected to spike. The greater the reaction to the coronavirus, the more likely the world economy will be pushed toward recession and job loss.

The following are a few of my thoughts regarding possible overreaction:

[1] The Chinese coronavirus seems to be extremely contagious, even before a person who has been exposed shows any symptoms. The only way we can be certain to contain the virus seems to be through quarantines lasting up to 14 days.

China’s National Health Minister, Ma Xiaowei, has provided information that seems quite alarming. With the new virus, a person may become communicable shortly after he/she has been infected, but symptoms may not appear for up to 14 days. This allows the infected person to infect many others without realizing that he/she is a carrier for the disease.

Today, the United States and many other countries screen for the virus by checking passengers arriving on planes from affected areas for fevers. Given the information provided by China’s National Health Minister, this approach seems unlikely to be sufficient to catch all of the people who may eventually come down with the disease. If a country really wants to identify all the potential carriers of the disease, it appears that a 14-day quarantine for all travelers from infected areas may be needed.

Such a quarantine becomes administratively difficult to handle for the huge number of people who are likely to travel from China. Such a quarantine would make it impossible for pilots and other airline workers to make a living, for example. They would be spending too much of their time in quarantine to do the work needed to support themselves and their families.

A related concern is that person-to-person transmission is very easy with the Chinese coronavirus. We don’t know for certain how many people each infected individual infects, but one estimate is that each infected person transmits the disease to an average of 2.5 other people. With this transmission rate, the number of people having the disease can be expected to grow exponentially, perhaps for several months.

Based on these concerns, it seems to me that funds spent on trying to contain the coronavirus are likely to be largely wasted. The new Chinese virus will spread widely, regardless of attempts to contain it. At most, quarantines will slightly slow the transmission of the disease. At the same time, quarantines will be quite disruptive of commerce. They will tend to reduce both total wages and total output of goods and services of the area.

[2] Deaths from pathogens are part of the natural cycle. They help prune back the population of the old and weak.

We know that in ecosystems, one of the functions of naturally occurring fires is to clear out “deadwood,” to allow healthy new growth to occur. In fact, some types of seeds seem to require smoke for germination. When inadequate natural burning takes place, bushfires as seen in Australia and forest fires as seen in California become an increasing problem.

Deaths from pathogens seem to play a similar role in human economies. This is especially the case with pathogens that especially target the weak and old. Most flu viruses have this characteristic. Early reports of deaths from the coronavirus suggest that this same pattern of targeting the old and weak is occurring with this virus as well. As noted above, the median age of those dying from the new coronavirus seems to be about 75 years.

Since the 1940s, modern medicine has been able to develop antibiotics and vaccines to counteract the impact of many pathogens. This, of course, makes citizens happy, but it has the disadvantage of changing the population in a way that leaves the economy with a much higher percentage of elderly people and others in poor health. This higher level of elderly and medically needy people makes it easy for viruses and other pathogens to make their rounds, just as leaving deadwood on the forest floor makes it easier for fires to spread.

With this rising population of people who cannot support themselves, tax rates for the remaining citizens tend to become very high. Young workers may become discouraged because they do not have enough income remaining after paying taxes to raise their own families. In effect, they cannot support both their young families and the many old people.

Viewed from this unusual perspective, the operation of the Chinese coronavirus might even be considered a benefit to society as a whole. The world has overcome the impact of measles, typhoid, polio, and many other diseases. In some sense, it “needs” a new disease added to its portfolio, to replace the ones that have been mostly taken care of by modern medicine. In this way, pensions and other payments targeting the old and weak don’t become too great a burden on the young.

[3] If the Chinese coronavirus were simply allowed to run its course, without publicity that it was in any way unusual, somewhat less than 1% of the world’s population might be expected to die. 

To see what would happen if the Chinese coronavirus were to run its course, we might look at what happened with the Spanish Flu, back in 1918. At that time, doctors did not have a way of treating the virus and authorities downplayed concern for the disease. The US Center for Disease Control reports that 500 million people, or one-third of the world’s population, became infected. At least 50 million people (about 10% of those infected) died.

We don’t yet know with accuracy how many of those infected will die from the current virus. A recent estimate is that about 2.3% of those who are infected will die of the disease (based on 107 dying out of 4,600 infected). If we assume that the percentage of the population that will ultimately catch the new virus is 30%, then the share of the world’s population that would be expected to die would be about [(1/3) x 2.3% = 0.76%].

The UN estimates that the world’s population can be expected to grow by about 1.05% in 2020. If this is the case, the effect of the Chinese virus would be to sharply dampen the population increase for the year. Instead of population rising by 1.05%, it would rise by only 0.29% (= 1.05% – 0.76%), assuming all of the deaths associated with the Chinese coronavirus take place within a year. While this would be a change, it would be a fairly small, temporary change.

All of these deaths would be tragic for the families involved but, in a way, they would be less of a problem than the deaths that took place back in 1918. At that time, mortality was high for healthy 20- to 40-year olds, making the flu particularly disruptive for families. The total percentage of the population that died was also much higher, about 3% instead of 0.76%.

[4] A major danger of the virus seems to be one of overreaction.

Today’s world economy is fragile. China, like other countries, has a large amount of debt. Debt defaults related to poor profits of companies closing their operations for a time and workers losing income could easily skyrocket.

Closing down transportation from China would risk pushing the world economy into a very bad recession. In fact, simply having a very large number of people out sick from work would be expected to have an adverse impact on the economy. Spending a large amount of money on hospitalizations and face masks cannot compensate for the loss of productivity of the rest of the economy. Thus, the tendency would be toward recession in China, even if no action toward cutting off travel were taken.

China is a huge supplier of goods to the rest of the world. In fact, in 2016, it used more energy in producing industrial output than the United States, India, Russia and Japan combined.

Figure 1. Chart by the International Energy Agency showing total fuel consumed (TFC) by industry, for the top five fuel consuming nations of the world.

China’s economy has been growing very rapidly since 1990. Figure 2 shows this one way, in GDP comparisons using inflation-adjusted US dollars.

Figure 2. GDP of China and the United States, computed as percentages of World GDP. All amounts in 2010 US dollars, as provided by the World Bank.

Figure 3 is similar to Figure 2, except the growth comparison is made in “2011 Purchasing Power Parity International Dollars.” This adjustment is made because typically the currencies of less developed nations float far below the dollar, in terms of what the local currency will buy. The inflation-adjusted PPP comparison compares output on a basis that is expected to be more consistent with what the local currency will really purchase.

Figure 3. Ratios of the GDP of China and the United States to the World GDP. All amounts in 2011 Purchasing Power Parity International Dollars, as provided by the World Bank.

On this PPP basis, China’s GDP surpassed the US’s GDP in 2014. Figure 3 also shows that the United States has slipped from about 20% of the world’s GDP to about 15% on this basis.

We cannot simply cut off trade with China, regardless of how bad the situation is. China is too big and too important now. The rest of the world desperately needs goods and services produced in China, in spite of what is going wrong from an illness perspective. China plays too key a role in supply chains of many kinds for the country to be left out.

Even cutting off tourism becomes a problem. The share of China’s revenue from tourism amounted to 11% in 2018. While not all of this would drop off, even a dip would lead to lower employment in this part of its economy. Jet fuel use would drop as well.

[5] A particular problem today is low prices for many commodities, including oil and other fossil fuels. These prices are likely to fall further, if China’s economy falters further. 

We used to hear that the world would “run out of” oil and that oil prices would rise very high. In fact, if the people who were concerned about the issue had studied history, they would have figured out that a far more likely outcome would be “collapse.” In such a situation, prices of many commodities might fall too low. Revelation 18:11-13 provides a list of a number of commodities, including humans sold as slaves, for which prices dropped very low at the time of the collapse of ancient Babylon.

The problem is a different squeeze than a high-price squeeze. It is more of a growing wage disparity problem, with fewer and fewer of the world’s workers being able to afford the goods and services made by the world economy. This problem feeds back to commodity prices that fall too low for producers of many types. The problem is an affordability issue, rather than one of running out. I have written about this issue many times.

Prices of fossil fuels have been low for a very long time–essentially since late 2014. OPEC has cut back its oil production because of low oil prices. Several US natural gas producers have taken big write offs on natural gas investments. China’s coal production has remained below its 2013 level, because of low prices.

Figure 1. China energy production by fuel, based on 2019 BP Statistical Review of World Energy data. “Other Ren” stands for “Renewables other than hydroelectric.” This category includes wind, solar, and other miscellaneous types, such as sawdust burned for electricity.

If China finds it necessary to cut back on production of goods and services for any reason (excessive sickness within China, visitors aren’t traveling to China, tariffs, customers around the world aren’t buying cars), this reduction in output would be likely to further lower the prices of commodities. More producers would go bankrupt. Countries exporting products as diverse as oil, iron ore, copper and lithium might have economic difficulties.

Lower fossil fuel prices may lead to a cutback in their output, but it is doubtful that this cutback would be offset by an increase in the production of renewables. Falling fossil fuel prices would make the price comparison of renewables to fossil fuels look even worse than it does today. China has cut back on its subsidies for solar panels, and this has led to decreasing Chinese solar installations in both 2018 and 2019.

[6] The best approach might just be to let the Chinese coronavirus run its course. Authorities might also discourage stories about how awful the illness is.

Today, we seem to think that we can fix all problems. Unfortunately, this medical problem doesn’t seem to be fixable in the near-term. We should probably do as governments through the ages have done, which is not very much. We should not publicize the disease as being a whole lot worse than flu viruses in general, for example.

We should certainly look for inexpensive treatments for the disease. For example, there seems to be an effort to examine the possibility of using existing antiviral drugs as a treatment. It seems like an effort could be made to look into ways of treating the disease at home, perhaps using supplemental oxygen for a period. In time, perhaps a vaccine can be developed.

Individuals around the world should be encouraged to get themselves in as good health as possible, so that their own immune systems can fight off pathogens of all types, not just this particular virus. Common sense should be used in washing hands and in avoiding being with sick people. I doubt that it makes sense to encourage the use of masks, goggles and other protective devices.

We, as individuals, cannot live forever on this earth. We also cannot spend an unlimited percentage of GDP on health care: It becomes too high-cost for most citizens. At some point, we need to call a halt to the expectation that we can fix all problems. We live in a world with limited resources. We need to start lowering our expectations, if we don’t want to make our problems worse.

This entry was posted in Financial Implications and tagged , , , by Gail Tverberg. Bookmark the permalink.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.

1,772 thoughts on “It Is Easy to Overreact to the Chinese Coronavirus

  1. Mish was referenced frequently by an editor(not Gail) of the OD in years past. Generally he seems to think clearly, conclusions forecasting the future are always a challenge.

    The article below relates to the increase in SO2 levels over China.

    https://moneymaven.io/mishtalk/economics/sudden-rise-in-so2-levels-suggests-huge-cremation-surge-RikXVeI79kefRJ5g8r6YfA

    The comparison to the flu often comes up a quote from https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/blog/spanish-influenza-pandemic-then-now

    “Trains were the primary mode of transportation; the trains stopped running. So many people died, cities ran out of wood for coffins. Churches cancelled services to slow the contagion. Hospitals across America erected canvas tents to cope with unprecedented numbers of patients. Despite desperate and contradictory advice on how to quell the epidemic, no medical effort existed that could help the people.”

    This site goes on to state the estimated death toll was about 1% of the global population.
    Apparently reporting of the actual state of affairs was subdued then too. Leaders have a job to keep things running on a macro scale, and in the end, none of us make it out of here alive; so my goal is to be one of the 99% that makes it.

    Dennis L.

    • “The article below relates to the increase in SO2 levels over China.”

      Seeing that signature in Wuhan is downright eery. Some kind of thing they’d stick in a B sci-fi movie, but in this case it’s real. What we don’t know exactly is; What is the rate of cremating bodies to generate that visual signature?

    • I looked up information about the Spanish Flu earlier. This is a little of it, from memory:

      It turns out that Spain Was neutral in World War I. None of the countries that were actively participating in WWI would allow stories about the flu in their papers, so the only information was from Spain. So, it was called the Spanish Flu.

      WWI was at a time when the economy was doing poorly. The UK in particular was struggling with Peak Coal. Wages were too low for coal miners. They could make more money volunteering to serve in the war. Death rates in mines were high; the war wouldn’t necessarily be worse. Nutrition levels in the UK were probably low, before the war started, so young men were more vulnerable than they otherwise would have been to any virus.

      • The rations fed to the troops were also very poor, and often lacking due to bombardments.

        It was common for for ordinary soldiers to feed themselves up when they could at French cafes with eggs and chips and a glass of rather poor wine: a friend of mine remembers an old boy who had been a soldier telling him in the 1940’s how good the ‘oofs, frits an vin blonk’ were.

        Officers were better fed, on the whole, and usually ate very well indeed on leave.

  2. https://www.cnn.com/asia/live-news/coronavirus-outbreak-02-10-20-intl-hnk/index.html

    “Coronavirus cruise: There are 65 newly confirmed coronavirus cases on the Diamond Princess ship docked in Japan, bringing the total number on board to 135.”

    That’s worrying because at first it seemed like they had sequestered the passengers to their cabins and spreading the virus would slow or stop, but apparently many more were infected before that occurred, due to many people being contagions without showing symptoms. The trouble for the people on that cruise is they can’t get off until the virus has run its course. With that many people on board and more infections occurring, they could be on there for months.

    It would be interesting to do a poll at a later point in time to see how many of those passengers decide to take another cruise. Likely very few.

    This is going to be a hard one to stop. Likely it can’t and the only ray of sunshine ahead would be a possible vaccine, but how far off is that?

    • Right. A CNBC article says,‘Imagine being trapped in your bathroom’ — what it’s like on coronavirus-quarantined cruise ship

      Smith, who is from Sacramento, said the crew is handling quarantine “very well.”

      “I give Princess and the captain of this vessel an A plus-plus on their response on this,” he said. “They faced a situation that I expect they had no plans for.”

      Smith, who is confined in a suite, said the ship’s crew comes by at least three times a day for meals. Sometimes they deliver medication, bottled water and fresh towels, he said.

      If patrons are being confined to their rooms, perhaps it is crew members with the virus who are spreading the virus around.

      • Or perhaps it is the towels. Many viruses are not killed by temperatures around 100C, so even if the towels are being boiled, they could still be vectors.

        • Or the ventilation system, or the plumbing system (critical to SARS spread in several Hong Kong skyscrapers), or any other objects that go in and out of quarantined persons’ rooms. If windows open, plumes of viral particles (from coughing, sneezing, breathing, speaking) could travel over and around the ship (likely key to SARS transmission between adjacent Hong Kong towers).

          • Actually, I think the SARS spread I mentioned was in Singapore (Amoy Gardens) rather than in Hong Kong. Maybe you were still in Singapore at the time, Robert?

            • Yes, DB, I was. The first case occurred early in 2002, March if memory serves. Initially, the virus was confined to the one family, but a few weeks later it had spread.

              The main response of the government was (a) to tell people to behave sensibly, and (b) to extend the school holidays as they deemed necessary (because children do not always behave sensibly). There was no panic, our orderly society remained about 95% functional, and by early 2003 it was all over. The only change in my behaviour was that I was given a medical thermometer, told to take my temperature every day, and report myself a risk if it was above a critical threshold. Happily, it never was. By the way, I still have the thermometer; my souvenir of the “plague” that wasn’t.

              Later analyses claimed Singapore had “the toughest response”. That was not my perception. The government advised people what to do, for instance not to travel to infected areas and for those infected to report their contacts. All of which was duly done. At the end of the day, fewer then 50 people died (note added in proof: online research tells me it was exactly 33).

      • I don’t mean to “drone” on, but in a changing world some problems can be solved with modern technology, such as being stuck on a ship without your usual wine choice. Voila, a case or two flies in.

        https://www.zerohedge.com/markets/drone-allegedly-delivers-wine-cruise-ship-infected-coronavirus

        Cabin looks like it needs maid service, but didn’t someone mention alcohol, ETOH in particular kills the virus? A novel solution to be sure, but the man does have a smile on his face and I don’t think his isolation is going as badly as some others. One could even think of wine as an ancient psychotropic medication not sourced entirely in China.

        There is always a silver lining somewhere.

        Dennis L.

        • Dennis, wine has been used as an antiseptic for thousands of years. The Ancient Greeks drank water adulterated with wine, because plain water was known to be problematic. In the Middle Ages people drank mead, beer or wine; sailors mixed their water with rum. It all worked.

          By the way, Greek wine was about 6% alcohol, and it was mixed 1:2 with water. How they ever got drunk on 2% liquor is a puzzle, and they certainly did, as at Plato’s Symposium. My theory is that the yeast and my ancestors coevolved ever greater tolerance for alcohol, so the yeast can now create 14% wine, and I can drink it neat. Dionysos is a good God to serve, it seems.

      • I think we need a sample larger than one to say anything about ethnic Chinese versus other. I cannot imagine Chinese ethnicity being an important variable. People would like to think it is, however.

        I expect women, in general, tend to get the disease more lightly than others. I usually get colds more lightly than my male family members, for example.

        • The higher mortality rate in Wuhan and surrounds might just be due to the local health system being overwhelmed and possibly due to a higher incidence of existing pulmonary conditions, thanks to smoking and pollution.

          Some caucasians have already developed unpleasant flu-like symptoms from the virus so being white is no guarantee of remaining asymptomatic, although I am not aware of any deaths so far.

  3. «Of course, the Steyer-Bloomberg-Paulson investments are not solely responsible for the misuse of scenarios in the scientific literature, but they are clearly a significant part of the story.

    The corruption of climate science has occurred because some of our most important institutions have let us down. The scientific peer review process has failed to catch obvious methodological errors in research papers. Leading scientific assessments have ignored conflicts of interest and adopted flawed methods. The media has been selectively incurious as to the impact of big money on climate advocacy.

    This is a story of how wealth and power have corrupted science in pursuit of political goals. Climate change is important, there is no doubt. But the importance of climate change does not mean that we should abandon high standards of scientific integrity. We are going to need good science in the future — so it is best to keep it that way, no matter what cause it is enlisted to support.»
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/rogerpielke/2020/01/02/how-billionaires-tom-steyer-and-michael-bloomberg-corrupted-climate-science/#6131a569702c

    • This article is about how a group of billionaires were able to fund an approach they liked, even though it was a misuse of the scenarios:

      The approach focused on characterizing the extreme RCP8.5 scenario as “the closest to a business-as-usual trajectory” and centered its economic analysis on that scenario: “we focus on RCP 8.5 as the pathway closest to a future without concerted action to reduce future warming.” In this way they guaranteed that the economic impacts would be eye-poppingly large.

      In my personal opinon, RCP 8.5 is absolutely absurd. To get as much fossil fuels out as it demands would require much higher prices than physics allows the economy to sustain. We would have to pull out the coal from under the North Sea and many other places.

      The article compares the approach of these billionaires to the introduction of a virus into the scientific system.

      Like the introduction of a virus, the misleading reinterpretation of climate scenarios has subsequently expanded throughout the climate science literature and into leading assessments.

      Also:

      There is no hidden conspiracy, all of this is taking place in plain sight and in public. In fact, what is going on here is absolutely genius. We have a well-funded effort to fundamentally change how climate science is characterized in the academic literature, how that science is reported in the media, and ultimately how political discussions and policy options are shaped.

      This effort has been phenomenally successful.

      In my opinion, the reason why this approach has been very successful is because it gives a way for politicians to gracefully stay away from the depletion issues. Instead of looking at one problem, people are pushed into looking at a different problem.

  4. Here’s a hard hitting video by an Indian woman about how China is handling the virus with neighbors being financially rewarded for turning in their neighbors for being infected, anti-corruption police being sent to Wuhan to stop word from spreading via the internet or to the press, people’s houses/apt’s being boarded up, people being dragged out of their domicile and taken to hospital warehouses, etc.

    • I agree. It is a very good video. China is taking very draconian steps, but they don’t seem to be working very well. There seems to be persecution of those who try to report on the issues.

      • There seems to be persecution of those who try to report on the issues.”

        That is unfortunate because it’s the free flow of information that educates all of us on the reality of the situation. Trying to adjust the perception of reality to minimize it seems to have the opposite effect by frustrating those in the mess and those trying to get a handle on the actual truth. People tend to be smart from the standpoint that they can see enough telltale signs, like hospitals being erected, crematoriams running 24/7, doctors being silenced, those reporting on it being arrested, doors being nailed shut, people being dragged from their homes, and so on that we realize this is much worse than the official narrative and stats.

    • That’s actually pretty lame video by any standards. Rehashed fake ytubers, laps of logic in setting up the argument (strong/desperate vs. no response of gov to the huge crisis). And all veiled in the silly Indian nationalist urge “they deserve it afteral” while India remains even worse hell hole.. lolz..

    • Chris Hamilton makes the important point that the growing economies (China, India, etc.) really need the higher wage economies to be growing as well, or they don’t have enough customers to sell to.

      Out of curiosity, I looked at the annual change in 0-60 year olds, on a worldwide basis, using the same 2019 UN data that Chris Hamilton uses. I only took my chart out to 2020, rather than extending it to 2040 using UN projections.

      My chart has a peak in 1988, which is almost the same as 1989. I think the reason for the peak then occurs 60 years earlier. Births were very low during the depression of the 1930s. They picked up a little later, but then there were other effects added as well, including the availability of antibiotics (keeping people alive longer) and the availability of birth control, reducing the number of births.

      My worldwide peak is more regular looking than the segment Chris is looking at.

      I am wondering if total population growth is also important. After all, people of all ages need to eat and have clothing. On a world basis, the annual population growth has not slowed down much at all.

      • His chart with 1989 and 2008 above tells a lot about the availability of the workforce, as it excludes the economies which are dependent on the influx of the immigrants and foreign workforce.

        What happend in 1989 and 2008 is that the supply of the workforce in the developed countries, which are dependent on the imported workforce, the imports of energy and raw materials and comprise the majority of the world GDP, is declining.

        “What is known before any pandemic is that the four regions of the world that make-up just 36% of global population but nearly 80% of global GDP (plus 70% of commodity / energy consumption) including East Asia (Japan, China, Taiwan, S/N Korea), Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and North America (US, Canada) all have declining under-60-year-old populations as of 2019.”

        The world is becoming weaker.

        • Right. The analysis is of people 0-60. If workforce were intended, ages 20-60 would probably be better, but it might give a similar result.

          We know that the number of children is down in these areas, but this is mostly irrelevant. Fewer children leave more mothers available for the workforce.

          • The problem is the care for the elderly and the disabled, not just for children. The rising number of those who need care, makes the workforce less mobile. Also the quality of the workforce is going down due to the worse conditions like food and healthcare etc. and the accumulating mutations in the population.

            That is why the benefits of the imported workforce go down and the populations like that in Great Britain feel that the immigration must be stopped.

  5. This from a friend who lived in Shanghai for years and whose wife is from China:

    ‘A friend’s family is in Wuhan, they are all at home 4/5 people in the family are sick, just the kid is not sick and they believe one family member is on a deathbed (45-year-old male) the rest just have bad flu symptoms. These people are definitely not in the official statistics and are undocumented cases so I imagine the numbers are much much higher.’

    • Another sideline to the undocumented infected multitudes is the rising percentage of critically ill patients. Early stats showed 13% but steadily that’s risen now to 19% of all infections and that’s from the official stats. In the critically ill it isn’t just attacking the lungs, its damaging the other major organs like the heart, liver and kidneys. Many of the sick that survived the virus are now looking at a 6 month recovery for their organs to regain good health again, if ever.

      Damaging organs is what Ebola did, so in a sense this virus has worst of the worst traits. 1) it has a very long incubation period providing great opportunity to be transmitted
      2) has multiple ways it can transmit including airborne droplets
      3) Near 20% infected become critically ill
      4) Attacks the vital organs
      5) Very long recovery for those that were critically ill

      That’s a lot to overcome in an attempt to stop it’s spread into a pandemic that brings down the world economy. Sure, it can be done but at best this will be a pyrrhic victory, i.e. won at a great cost.

      • Looking back again to when I had the first stage of pneumonia, which responded to the powerful drugs I was prescribed, I did not regain full physical strength for over a year – this was also exacerbated by the high diesel pollution here.

        I simply lacked stamina: one big task per day and that was it. It was extremely depressing when you are used to being actice! I imagine that those who recover from the last stage of the coronavirus will be gravely weakened.

        I suspect we are all going to get this in due course, given the infectiousness, and must hope to be among the mild cases.

  6. Is a factory not similar to a cruise ship? 130 people tested positive on that one ship. How many will test positive when you mix millions of factory workers together at Foxconn Toyota etc?

    • Good Q HB. I’m thinking they’ve got to have a different strategy now people need to go back to work and the country needs that productivity, so in a sense they’re throwing a hail Mary pass hoping it doesn’t get out of hand, but like you point out, a factory is much like a ship. I’m thinking it’s not going to go very good.

    • I am afraid you are right. Factories will mix people together, leading to more infections. The more exposures a person has to other people, the more likely a person will be infected. Thus, public meetings of any kind will raise the chance of exposure. So will trains and buses.

      Public transport in general will mix people together. If a person rides in Uber car, there is a chance that the previous passenger had the virus. If a person drives a “rent-by-the-hour” car, the same issue exists. Private passenger autos may look like a luxury to the rest of the world, but they definitely cut back on the risk of picking up a virus using public transport.

      • There we go. Keep what we have. Hang on tho the wasteful old ways. Stay at home all we can, especially we older ones. We do have to buy food, and that may present unavoidable risks.

  7. This article on air pollution in China is well worth reading.

    How a ‘Toxic Cocktail’ Is Posing a Troubling Health Risk in China’s Cities
    A recent study in Chinese cities found a potential link between a hazardous mix of air pollutants and death rates. These findings point to the need for a new approach to assessing the dangers of urban smog in fast-industrializing parts of the developing world.
    BY FRED PEARCE • APRIL 17, 2018

    Extracts:

    In Europe and North America, there have effectively been two eras of smogs, with different chemistries. The first was characterized by heavy particulates and sulphur dioxide from burning coal in cities. It was in decline before the peak of the second phase, which arose from nitrogen oxides, fine particulates emitted by automobiles, and other compounds often combining photochemically in summer sunlight to create ozone.

    But in China, India, and other developing countries today, the two eras have come together. According to Han and his colleagues, “The development of coal-fired industries and increased automobile use have overlapped, which has resulted in the emissions of a complex mix of air contaminants.”

    China has the world’s most dangerous outdoor air pollution. The country emits about a third of all the human-made sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulates that are poured into the air around the world. The Global Burden of Disease Study, an international collaboration, estimates that 1.1 million Chinese die from the effects of this air pollution each year, roughly a third of the global death toll….

    China has 15 megacities with a population of over 10 million, but pollution was worst in cities with populations between 500,000 and 10 million. The reason, they suggest, is that the largest cities have implemented “extensive environmental protection measures,” leading many polluting industries to relocate to smaller cities.

    Unlike megacities such as Beijing, Tianjin, or Shanghai, these hidden hotspots have rarely grabbed the headlines and have not attracted the attention of state pollution controllers. The paper names four cities that suffered smogs in which all five of the contaminants were above WHO guidelines for more than eight days a year – Dongying, Linya, Weifang, and Zibo. All are in Shandong, an industrial province in northeast China. They have populations of between 1 and 3.5 million; none is among China’s 30 largest cities.

    Three other cities listed as regularly suffering dangerous levels of four or five of the pollutants are Jining, also in Shandong, Wuhan in Hubei province, and Jiayuguan and Jinchang in Gansu. None of the seven appear in the lists of the ten most polluted Chinese cities published by the WHO or Chinese environment ministry. …

    Kulmala, in his Nature article titled “China’s choking cocktail,” says we can expect “chains of chemical reactions” taking place among the multiple pollutants on Chinese smogs. Those reactions, he says, may have unexpected consequences that make conventional regulation of individual pollutants unpredictable and even counterproductive.

    https://e360.yale.edu/features/how-a-toxic-cocktail-is-posing-a-troubling-health-risk-in-chinese-cities

    • These pollutants no doubt make people’s lungs more vulnerable to the effects of any virus.

      This article is about China. I expect some cities in India have a similar problem.

    • If you don’t like the numbers, change the definition!

      According to the article:

      Over the weekend, the number of newly confirmed infections was the lowest yet—so, just by looking at the official numbers, those resources appeared to have had an impact on containing the sickness.

      However, the reduced numbers were based on the Chinese National Health Commission’s modified definition of what a “confirmed case” is. Since last Friday, patients who weren’t showing pneumonia symptoms even if they tested positive as carriers of 2019-nCoV no longer count as “confirmed” in China. The commission’s definition runs counter to the World Health Organization’s guidance for verifying the disease’s presence—and plain common sense.

      Conclusion: Don’t believe the numbers!

  8. “The coronavirus epidemic could spread to about two-thirds of the world’s population if it cannot be controlled, according to Hong Kong’s leading public health epidemiologist…

    “Even if the general fatality rate is as low as 1%, which Leung thinks is possible once milder cases are taken into account, the death toll would be massive.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/11/coronavirus-expert-warns-infection-could-reach-60-of-worlds-population

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