Easily overlooked issues regarding COVID-19

We read a lot in the news about the new Wuhan coronavirus and the illness it causes (COVID-19), but some important points often get left out.

[1] COVID-19 is incredibly contagious.

COVID-19 transmits extremely easily from person to person. Interpersonal contact doesn’t need to be very long; a taxi driver can get the virus from a passenger, for example. The virus may be transmissible even before an infected person develops symptoms. It may also be transmissible for a few days after a person seems to be over the virus; it is possible to get positive virus tests, even after symptoms disappear. Some people may have the disease, but never show symptoms.

[2] The virus likely remains active on inanimate surfaces such as paper, plastic, or metal for many days.

There haven’t been tests on the COVID-19 virus per se, but studies on similar viruses suggest that human pathogens may remain infectious for up to eight days. Some viruses that only infect animals can survive for more than 28 days. China is reported to be destroying paper currency from the hardest hit area, because people do not want to accept money which may have viruses on it. Clearly, surfaces in airplanes, trains and buses may also harbor viruses, long after a passenger with the virus has left, unless they have been thoroughly wiped down with disinfectant.

[3] Given Issues [1] and [2], about the only way to avoid spreading COVID-19 seems to be geographic isolation. 

With all of today’s travel, geographic isolation doesn’t work very well in practice. People need food and medical supplies. They need to keep basic services such as electricity and garbage collection operating. Suppliers of food and other services need to come and leave the area and that tends to spread COVID-19. Also, the longer a geographic area is isolated, the larger the percentage of the people within the area that is likely to get COVID-19. The problem is that the people need to have contact with others in the area for purposes such as buying food, and that tends to spread the disease.

[4] The real story regarding the number of deaths and illnesses seems to be far worse than the story China is telling its own people and the world.

The real story seems to be that the number of deaths is far greater than the number reported–perhaps 10 times as high as being reported. The number of illnesses is also much higher. At one point, facilities doing cremations in the Wuhan area were reported to be doing four to five times the normal number of cremations. Some of the bodies in the Wuhan area now need to be sent to other areas of China because there is not enough local cremation capacity.

China doesn’t dare tell its people how bad the situation really is, for fear of panic. They want to tell a story of being in control and handling the situation well. The news media in the West repeat the stories that the government-controlled publications of China provide, even though they seem to present a much more favorable situation than really seems to be the case.

[5] Our ability to identify who has the new coronavirus is poor.

While there is a test for the coronavirus, it costs hundreds of dollars to administer. Even with this high cost, the results of the tests aren’t very reliable. The test tends to produce many false negatives. The virus may be present somewhere inside the person being tested, but not in the areas touched by swabs of the throat and nose.

[6] Some people get much more severe symptoms from COVID-19 than others.

Most people, perhaps 80% of people, seem to get a fairly light form of the COVID-19 illness. Groups that seem particularly prone to adverse outcomes include the elderly, smokers, those who are obese, and those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or poor immune systems. Males seem to have worse outcomes than females.

Strangely enough, there is speculation that people with East Asian ancestry (Chinese, Japanese, or Vietnamese) may have a higher risk of adverse outcomes than those of European or African ancestry. One of the things that is targeted by the disease is the ACE2 receptor. The 1000 Genome Project studied expected differences in ACE2 receptors among various groups. Based on this analysis, some researchers (in non-peer-reviewed studies, here and here) predict that those of European or African ancestry will tend to get lighter forms of the disease. These findings are contested in another, non-peer-reviewed study.

Bolstering the view that East Asians are more susceptible to viruses that target the ACE2 receptor is the fact that SARS, which also tends to target the ACE2 receptor, tended to stay primarily in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. While there were cases elsewhere, they tended to have few deaths.

Observational data with respect to COVID-19 is needed to determine whether there truly is a difference in the severity of the illness among different populations.

[7] China has been using geographical quarantine to try to hold down the number of COVID-19 cases. The danger with such a quarantine is that once the economy is down, it is very difficult to come back to the pre-quarantine state.

Data shows that China’s economy is not reopening quickly after the extended New Year holiday finished.

Figure 2. China daily passenger flows, relative to Chinese New Year. Amounts are now down more than 80% and have not increased, even as some businesses are theoretically reopening. Chart by ANZ, copied by WSJ Daily Shot Feb. 17, 2020.

Figure 3. China property transactions, before and after Chinese New Year. Chart by Goldman Sachs. Reprinted by WSJ Daily Shot, Feb. 17, 2020.

All businesses will be adversely affected by a lack of sales if they need to continue to pay overhead expenses. Small and medium-sized businesses will be especially adversely affected. Bloomberg reports that if a shutdown lasts for three months, there is a substantial chance that these businesses will run through their savings and fail. Thus, these businesses may be permanently lost if the economy is down for several months.

Also, restarting after a shut-down is more difficult than it might appear. Take, for example, a mother who wants to go back to work. She will likely need:

  • Public transportation to be operating, so she has a way to get to work;
  • School to be open, so she doesn’t need to worry about her child while she is at work;
  • Masks to be available, so that she and her child can comply with requirements to wear them;
  • Stores providing necessities such as food to be open, or she may be too hungry to work

If anything is missing, the mother is likely not to go back to work. Required masks seem to be a problem right now, but other pieces could be missing as well.

Businesses, too, need a full range of workers to restart their operations. If the inspector doing the final inspection is not available, the business may not really be able to ship finished products, even if most of the workers are back.

[8] A shutdown of as little as three months is likely to be damaging to the world economy.

Multiple things are likely to go wrong:

(a) Commodity prices are likely to fall steeply, because of low demand from China. Oil prices, in particular, are likely to fall steeply, perhaps to $30 to $35 per barrel. Besides cutbacks in oil demand from China, there is the issue of a general reduction in long distance travel, because of fear of traveling with other passengers with COVID-19.

(b) US businesses, such as Apple, will find their supply chains broken. They won’t know when, and if, they can ship products.

(c) Debt defaults are likely to become more common, especially in China. The longer the slowdown/shutdown lasts, the greater the extent to which debt defaults are likely to spread around the world.

(d) The world economy is likely to be pushed into recession, without an easy way to get out again.

[9] The longer the shutdown lasts, the more likely there is to be a major collapse of the Chinese economy. 

In the event of a long-term shutdown, it would seem likely that, at a minimum, a new leader would take over. In fact, there would seem to be a significant chance of major changes within the economy. For example, the provinces of China that are able to restart might attempt to restart, leaving the more damaged areas behind. In such a case, instead of having a single Chinese government to deal with, there might be multiple governmental units to deal with.

Each governmental unit might consist of a few provinces trying to provide services such as they are able, without the benefit of the parts of the economy that are still shut down. Each governmental unit might have its own currency. If this should happen, China will be able to provide far fewer goods and services than it has in the recent past.

[10] Planners everywhere have been guilty of “putting too many eggs in one basket.”

Planners today look for efficiency. For example, placing a large share of the world’s industry in China looks like it is an efficient approach. Unfortunately, we are asking for trouble if the Chinese economy hits a bump in the road. Using just-in-time supply lines looks like a good idea as well, but if a major supplier cannot provide parts for a while, then having inventory on hand would have been a better approach.

If we want systems to be sustainable, they really need a lot of redundancy. Redundant systems are not as efficient, but they are much more likely to be sustainable through difficult times. There is a recent article in Nature that talks about this issue. One of the things it says is,

A system with a single cycle is the most unstable because the deletion of any cycle-node or link breaks the sustaining feedback mechanism.

“A system with a single cycle” is basically similar to “putting all of our eggs in one basket.” “Deletion of any cycle-node or link” is something like China running into coronavirus problems. We probably need a world economy that consists of many nearly separate local economies to be certain of long-term world economy stability. Alternatively, we need a great deal of redundancy built into our systems. For example, we need large inventories to work around the possibility of missing contributions from one country, in the case of a problem such as a major epidemic.

Conclusion

The world economy may become very different, simply because of COVID-19. The new virus doesn’t even need to directly affect the rest of the world very much to create a problem. The United States, Europe, and the rest of the world are very much dependent on the continued operation of China. The world economy has effectively put way too many eggs in one basket, and this basket is now not functioning as expected.

If China is barely producing anything for world markets, the rest of the world will suddenly discover that long supply chains weren’t such a good idea. There will be a big scramble to try to fill in the missing pieces of supply chains, but many goods are likely to be less available. We may discover quickly how much we depend upon China for everything from shoes to automobiles to furniture to electronics. World carbon dioxide emissions are likely to fall dramatically because of China’s problems, but will the accompanying issues be ones that the world economy can tolerate?

The thing that is ironic is that it is possible that the West’s fear of the new coronavirus may be overblown–we really won’t know what the impact will be with respect to people of European or of African descent until we have had a better chance to examine how the virus affects different populations. The next few weeks and months are likely to be quite instructive. For example, how will the Americans and Australians who caught COVID-19 on the cruise ships fare? What will the health outcomes be of non-Asians being brought back from Wuhan to their native countries on special planes?

 

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.
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2,589 Responses to Easily overlooked issues regarding COVID-19

  1. Harry McGibbs says:

    “The coronavirus could cost the global economy more than $1tn in lost output if it turns into a pandemic, according to a leading economic forecaster.

    “Oxford Economics warned that the spread of the virus to regions outside Asia would knock 1.3% off global growth this year, the equivalent of $1.1tn in lost income.

    “The consultancy said its model of the global economy showed the virus was already having a “chilling effect” as factory closures in China spilled over to neighbouring countries and major companies struggled to source components and finished goods from the far east.”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/19/coronavirus-could-cost-global-economy-1tn-in-lost-output

    • This is a very low estimate of the real problem, I am afraid.

    • Robert Firth says:

      That is 1/80 of the global economy. A number I find unbelievably low, given that China has already shuttered one third of its production. I suspect the authors know that, but are lowballing the number to make it look as if “stimulus” can fix the problem. It can’t.

  2. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Just 34 per cent of nearly 1000 small and medium-sized firms [in China] said they could survive for a month on current cashflow, a recent survey by Tsinghua University and Peking University showed.

    “A third said they could last for two months, while 18 per cent said they could stick it out for three months.

    “”There could be big layoffs,” said Wang Jun, Beijing-based chief economist at Zhongyuan Bank.”

    https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/asia/china-races-to-contain-job-losses-as-coronavirus-crisis-batters-economy-20200219-p542h4.html

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “China said on Thursday it lowered its benchmark lending rates — a move that was widely expected by analysts as the world’s second-largest economy faced threats from an outbreak of a deadly coronavirus…

      “Bo Zhuang, chief China economist at research firm TS Lombard, said the Chinese economy would need more “aggressive” easing.”

      https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/20/coronavirus-chinas-pboc-cuts-benchmark-lending-rate-loan-prime-rate.html

      • I suppose they would like companies to borrow enough money to pay the wages of all of the temporarily unemployed workers. But how will companies really pay this money back?

    • Robert Firth says:

      As Barbie said, “math is tough”. I think the article meant to say that of the 34%, one third (about 11% of the total) said they could survive 2 months, and 18% of the 34% (or about 6% of the total) could hold out for three. Closest fit is a negative binomial distribution (Zipf’s Law), which is what one would expect.

  3. Harry McGibbs says:

    ““Major disruption to the global supply chain because of the Covid-19 continues, affecting industries from automotive to toys – and the issue continues to escalate,” said Richard Wilding, Professor of Supply Chain Strategy at Cranfield University.

    ““In China, smaller companies may find it easier to get back up and running. But larger factories may have to go through a cleaning and disinfectant process before staff can fully return and implement appropriate procedures to identify potential infections in the workforce, similar to what we have seen at airports. For larger sites implementing such procedures could take weeks.””

    https://www.themanufacturer.com/articles/jcb-coronavirus-can-bring-uk-supply-chain-knees/

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “Choked off from suppliers, workers, and logistics networks, China’s manufacturing base is facing a multitude of unprecedented challenges, as coronavirus containment efforts hamper factories’ efforts to reopen.

      “Many of those that have been granted permission to resume operations face critical shortages of staff, with huge swathes of China still under lockdown and some local workers afraid to leave their homes. Others cannot access the materials needed to make their products, and even if they could, the shutdown of shops and marketplaces around China means demand has been sapped.”

      https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3051534/coronavirus-chinas-manufacturing-supply-chain-pummelled-all

      • I know that reports on the state of US wind technology try to report on import dependency. The problem the report has is that standard categories there are collected are not sufficiently detailed to determine how much dependency manufacture in the US (and Europe) depends upon Chinese inputs. If an analysis is made of only those categories that are clearly associated with wind, China and Spain dominate:

        The nacelle is the center part of the turbine. According to the report:

        However, the domestic content of most of the equipment internal to the nacelle—much of which is not tracked in wind-specific trade data—was considerably lower, often well below 20%.

        I wonder how much of wind turbine manufacture is indirectly dependent upon Chinese exports.

        • JesseJames says:

          Gail, I would suspect that most of the rare earth magnets used in the wind generators come from China. If not made in China, the materials are most likely mined in China.

          • I think you are right. I found this article in November 30, 2018, Wind Power Monthly: Rethinking the use of rare-earth elements.

            The big concern of this article is possible price spikes and, because of this, using less:

            . . .demand for REEs [rare earth elements] is growing fast, and China has a near monopoly on production of both REEs and permanent magnets, raising questions over single-market dependency and the risk of price fluctuation — as the 2011 price spike illustrated.

            Another quote:

            The REEs most commonly used in the wind industry are neodymium and dysprosium, plus small amounts of praseodymium.

            Alloys of these three are key constituents of the powerful permanent magnets used in everything from smartphones, medical equipment, electric vehicles and robotics to the permanent-magnet synchronous generators (PMSGs) employed in some wind turbines.

            It also says:

            The US’s only rare-earth mine has now reached commercial production of concentrates, which it ships to China for separation. [Emphasis added]

            The company plans to increase production and separate the REEs at Mountain Pass “in the near future”, says CEO Colin Nexhip.

  4. Harry McGibbs says:

    “Hong Kong is heading for its first back-to-back annual recessions on record, as the coronavirus outbreak cripples an economy already battered by months of political unrest.”

    https://www.straitstimes.com/business/economy/hong-kong-heads-for-1st-back-to-back-recessions-on-record

  5. Harry McGibbs says:

    “…[There are an eye popping] US$600 trillion worth of derivatives – over six times global GDP – that appear in financial statement footnotes but not on balance sheets due to “netting” that assumes counterclaim matching and liquidity that won’t exist during the next financial crisis, as for the last.

    “Derivatives of such magnitude mean that even small mismatches will cause instant insolvency for many firms, among them some big banks…

    “While triggers for dips are difficult to predict, one thing is certain: central bankers face a dilemma.

    “They need to raise near-zero interest rates to equip themselves for the next downturn and mitigate distorting effects of low interest rates on real asset values, investments, savings and income equality. Yet, by doing so, they risk causing a downturn, as they have done before.

    “So my prediction is that, unless one of the candidates above [slowing growth, unsound financial systems and the coronavirus] triggers a market collapse before they do, central bankers will.

    “As I said in 2007, consider selling soon.”

    https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3051201/if-slowing-growth-unsound-financial-systems-and-coronavirus-dont

    • Harry McGibbs says:

      “U.S. stock markets continue to blaze in ‘risk-on’ mode despite a number of global headwinds. The Dow Jones Industrial Average pushed nearly 100 points higher on Wednesday, hovering just shy of all-time highs.

      “But are traders ignoring the bigger picture? Japan and Germany – two of the world’s four largest economies – are on the brink of recession. Meanwhile, China is expected to record its slowest growth in almost 30 years (and that’s before the coronavirus hit).”

      https://www.ccn.com/dow-climb-but-global-economy-teeters-toward-recession/

      • Harry McGibbs says:

        “Yale’s Stephen Roach said the markets continued move to the upside despite coronavirus uncertainty does not make sense because “irrational exuberance never makes sense.”

        ““As long as central banks are opening up the liquidity spigot as wide as they are, the markets pay absolutely no attention to any potential threats to economic activity,” Roach said. “It’s the here and now, and it works until it doesn’t.””

        https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/19/markets-may-face-serious-reckoning-amid-coronavirus-stephen-roach.html

        • j says:

          We have been trapped.

        • The US stock market seems to be down a bit this morning. Maybe there will be a bit of a break in the exuberance.

          WTI is up to $54.00. Wow!

          • Harry McGibbs says:

            They are saying it is due to the Chinese stimulus calming demand concerns (which is absurd as China’s stimulus is not going to directly impact Chinese demand at this time) and supply problems in Venezuela and Libya.

            I think the fact that paper oil outweighs real oil many times over means that oil prices can be quite easily manipulated in the short-term. Longer-term trends cannot be so easily manipulated, however.

      • Denial says:

        The stock market is there only place to be. As governments have realized that if they prop them up people believe the economy is great. Ask anyone in the U.S and the will say the economy is great

    • Right. Consider selling soon.

    • peatmoss says:

      derivitives. If everbodies auto insurance was cancelled tomorow would the banking system end?

  6. Malcopian says:

    Gail, in your previous post you wrote this:

    ‘Nearly all of the subsidies given are with respect to wind and solar. The biggest subsidy given is that of “going first.” Going first has a huge cost involved, but no one has figured out what the difference in price would be, if wind and solar needed to use batteries to level the playing field with other providers’

    What did you mean by ‘going first’ ? The comments closed before I could ask.

    • The subsidy of going first means that wind and solar are used whenever they happen to be available, in preference to electricity produced by natural gas, coal, and nuclear. In fact, prices drop for other providers, often to negative values, if they cannot stop their production. Nuclear power plants cannot stop. The negative prices mean that nuclear power plants, which are paid for and are providing low carbon electricity, are driven out of business. Coal and natural gas base-load plants are also driven out of business. All that tends to be left is inefficient natural gas peaking plants. The prices for coal, natural gas, and uranium tend to be pushed too low, pushing companies in the business of extracting those minerals toward bankruptcy and the world economy toward collapse.

      As more and more wind and solar are added to the grid, the impact gets worse and worse. Eventually, a larger and larger share of their output simply needs to go unused, because it is generated at times of day and times of year when it is not needed. Other providers need to fill in the electricity gaps at inadequate wholesale prices; this becomes an absurd demand. Whoever thinks this approach is “sustainable” is badly deluded in my opinion.

      The cost estimates of wind and solar are far too low. They assume:

      1. 100% of the electricity wind and solar produce can be used. A smaller and smaller percentage can be used, as more is added.
      2. There are no adverse impacts on other electricity producers. In fact, other producers need subsidies to stay open. This cost is omitted.
      3. Wind and solar don’t need a huge amount of additional long distance transmission and battery support to be viable.
      4. The cost estimates miss all of the extra costs that go with all of the extra long distance transmission. The extra long distance transmission adds to the fire risk. The lines really need to be buried underground, at high cost, to prevent this. This cost is also omitted.

      People are fed the ridiculous story that wind and solar are renewable and that the system will be more sustainable. Nonsense!

      • Curt Kurschus says:

        I agree, Gail, except that with regards to your second point :

        2. There are no adverse impacts on other electricity producers. In fact, other producers need subsidies to stay open. This cost is omitted.

        I would suggest that this point is not even considered as it is assumed by the vast majority of people that one day all of our electricity will be supplied by “renewable” methods of generation. The idea that there will be no fossil fuel or nuclear power stations would be considered a good thing and the way things should be. At least, that is the impression that I get. The whole “renewables” trend in electricity generation strikes me as being irresponsibly foolish. We are being led joyfully skipping into tragedy. This links arms with the current continued sharemarket exuberance as China crumbles.

        • What I am saying is that the academic analyses assume that there are no adverse impacts on other producers. Or possibly they need a tiny bit of subsidy. But cost estimates tend to leave this major cost out. So I think we are saying the same thing.

      • Malcopian says:

        Thank you for your explanation, Gail.

  7. An article in the WSJ says that 40% of migrant workers have not returned to the major cities. This would be a huge problem in restarting the economy.

    Peering Through the Coronavirus Murk Into China’s Economy

    The most worrying—and credible—figures on overall growth are those tracking people’s movements. Using migration data from map-and-search giant Baidu, Morgan Stanley estimates that less than 40% of the people who left top-tier Chinese cities for the holiday have returned. By this time last year, nearly all had.

    That’s a huge problem: Migrant laborers still make up about 40% of China’s total workforce. Official figures point in the same direction. As of Tuesday, the total number of passenger trips by rail, road, waterway and air during the Lunar New Year travel period was down 50% from the equivalent period in 2019, according to the Ministry of Transport.

    This could all cause some pretty serious problems for companies outside China. According to consultancy Gavekal, electronics brands targeting a Christmas product launch usually don’t have more than a three-week buffer during the year.

    I think of migrant workers being like contract workers. They are the bottom tier of workers. Their children generally cannot be educated in public schools. I am not sure that they have the right to use hospitals. Parents often leave their children with grandparents to be raised, so that they can work as migrant workers.

    The WSJ has another article saying that three of their reporters were kicked out because Chinese authorities objected to an opinion article titled, “China Is Really the Sick Man of Asia.” The reporters were not involved in the writing of that article.

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  9. Ed says:

    My understanding there are only two things humankind can do wrt a virus. We can affect the timing and we might with time develop a vaccine, which itself will kill some small number of people. China is slowing the spread dragging out the whole event. Might it be better to bite the bullet and get it over with? and get the economy running again.

    • Greg Machala says:

      I agree. And, I think that is what China is going to do. The Chinese govt will no doubt lie about the official death toll and pretend everything is OK and just burn the bodies in the hopes that replacement workers will fill in behind the dead.

      The virus is already out in the general population so it is really too late to stop it. Iran reported 2 deaths earlier this week and I think 9 deaths in the past 24 hours. So, it is accelerating now out of China. It is affecting South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong now as well. It must be a very contagious disease. And dangerous.

    • Chrome Mags says:

      “Might it be better to bite the bullet and get it over with? and get the economy running again.”

      I agree with that idea, ED. The assertion needs to be that unless people get back to work (in China), the world economy will devolve into chaos. Therefore a new policy needs to established called, “Immune System Faith”, or ISF for short, in which people take off their protective gear and go back to work and are expected to have faith in their immune system. They ignore other people coughing and sneezing and simply do their job and go about the business of living. When someone falls to the floor, they are taken outside and placed on a bench – from there they either become alert and go with their life or pass on. No hospital stays, no blood transfusion, nothing. Either people have proven they have faith in their immune system for the good of the Party, or they have failed and fate awaits them.

      It would be a similar strategy to when in WWII Stalin set a policy of ‘Not one step back.’ That policy cost millions of lives but it worked, as Russian soldiers fought off the German soldiers at Stalingrad.

  10. peatmoss says:

    Flu Kills 646,000 People Worldwide Each Year
    https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=208914

    So the argument that cv19 threatans BAU would imply that the death toll was many multiples of the flu? say 5 10 million?

    • Losing 646,000 people to flu deaths each year is tiny relative to world population. World population is something like 7.8 billion people. Losing 1% of the world’s population to an illness would mean 78 million deaths. Even with that huge number of deaths, world population would not decrease, because births (before this all happened) exceeded deaths to such an extent that world population is growing by a little over 1% per year. To actually decrease population, you would need more than 78 million deaths.

      The world has had a lot of epidemics historically. The most recent big epidemic was the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918-1919. It was estimated to have a death rate of 10%, but only 30% of the world’s population was infected, so 3% died. Even at that, the world eventually recovered.

      What makes things different this time is several things:
      1. A huge share of the world’s manufacturing is done in China today. See my previous post.
      2. All around the world, manufacturers depend on just-in-time supplies.
      3. China has shut down a whole lot of its economy to try to contain the illness.
      4. Many would-be workers in China are not being paid, because of the shut down economy.
      5. Migrant workers (who make up something like 30% of China’s work force) are not coming back from visiting their families after New Year’s Celebration. Their chances of catching the illness are likely better in the the countryside.

      We depend on China for a whole lot. Computers and cell phones. Ingredients that go into pharmaceuticals. Shoes. Parts that go into automobiles. China is the world’s largest producer of rare earth elements. “Rare earth metals and alloys that contain them are used in many devices that people use every day such as computer memory, DVDs, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, catalytic converters, magnets, fluorescent lighting and much more.”

      A big problem is the disruption of supply chains that is taking place. Without the migrant workers back on the job, a large number of businesses will likely need to remain closed. There will likely be major financial defaults. We will lose whole classes of goods for which we depend on China for necessary supplies.

      • Xabier says:

        Exactly; it’s about the impact on networks of commerce, manufacturing and finance, rather than the mortality rate or absolute numbers of the dead.

        In no way is this comparable to our annual losses due to influenza, nor is it so comparatively benign an illness -this is increasingly clear as more is learned.

        Likely to be prolonged incapacitation and disruption, in one of the principal centres of the global industrial economy.

        • Chrome Mags says:

          “Exactly; it’s about the impact on networks of commerce, manufacturing and finance, rather than the mortality rate or absolute numbers of the dead.”

          The Corona Virus also carries with it a big fear factor over the flu. If you get the flu, in most cases people survive it and don’t end up with lung or other organs damaged. Many People’s lungs are damaged and some reports suggest many of these people will have long recovery periods, as long as 6 months. Also, many that die do so by their lungs filling with blood which should also cause a lot of fear of getting. I’m mentioning the fear factor because it will affect how many are willing to continue to work around other people that may be infected to keep BAU chugging along.

          • peatmoss says:

            Good points. Will the workers return… Which is better manual labor in the field or being worker bee in a factory? b4 the outbreak the vote was clear. now… But remember this. “id rather cry in a BMW than smile on a bicycle”. 🙂

          • Xabier says:

            Well, in only the recent past people worked and lived alongside others who were coughing with TB, and they knew that they were not long for this world.

            That was as it had always been, however sad – but we are facing a big psychological shock to the expectations built up since WW2.

            • Robert Firth says:

              Xabier, tuberculosis used to be called “consumption” and typically only frail young ladies in the upper strata of society died of it. The dead workers in field and factory were invisible to the chroniclers of the time. Although they did make an exception for lower class Cockney John Keats.

        • peatmoss says:

          CV19 might be just another bug in populations with low ACE2.

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