The emergent Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a highly contagious pathogen which causes a whole host of unpleasantries ranging from severe respiratory illness to kidney failure. The virus is thought to have originated in a fresh-air sea market in the city of Wuhan, the capital of the Hubei Province. This article will discuss the attributes of this disease, the situation in China, factors contributing to to the pandemic, and where it may be headed.
To start with, COVID is closely related to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which caused an epidemic in China in the early 2000s. SARS was concentrated in mainland China and Hong Kong, and resulted in 8,098 cases and 774 deaths (9.6% mortality rate), which in the grand scheme of things was probably not a particularly serious outbreak, all things considered. With the response directed by the frankly incompetent and criminally negligent CCP government, it’s a miracle the disease didn’t end up killing more people.
So there are some really important things to note about COVID-19:
- It is a zoonotic disease, meaning it spread from animals to humans
- It has spread more than five times faster than SARS
- The incubation period ranges from a day to two weeks
- Infected persons are contagious during the incubation period
- The disease can live on and be spread from surfaces for days
- A s of 1/27, the official case mortality rate is about 2.4%
- As of 1/27, 70% more people have died from the virus than have recovered
- As of 1/27, there are no vaccines or effective treatments
There are some extraordinary factors which are contributing to the spread of COVID-19. For one, China in its 40-day Spring Festival, which in recent years has culminated in the movement of hundreds of millions of people to their hometowns and families. This year it is projected there will be 440 million railway trips, which means countless thousands of packed trains with seats, beds, door handles, toilets, and other surfaces where Wuhan can be transmitted to endless people. It is said that some people will steal money or items to sell in order to afford their ticket home, meaning many people may not be deterred from their holiday travels due to the viral outbreak.
One thing that may not be well known among westerners is that the Chinese population is by-and-large severely ignorant of basic germ theory, and the efficacy of western medicine. Many millions still rely on Traditional Chinese Medicine to combat their ills, and the vast majority of Chinese do not practice hand washing at all, let alone with hand soap. Apparently hand soap is very rare even in hospitals and public restrooms.
To compound the matter, most Chinese (due to cultural reasons) eat primarily or in some cases only fresh food from local markets. Across China, local markets lack safety regulations, are incredibly unsanitary, and will undoubtedly help spread the disease. Buyers and sellers in these traditional open-air markets typically poke and prod the produce with their bare hands to determine if they are going to buy it, after dozens or maybe hundreds of people touched it where their bare hands.
One of the many short-sighted focuses of the Chinese government is the blind pursuit of social harmony, which is seen almost as the cardinal value in Chinese society. Provincial governments have suppressed news and figures about the spread of the disease not only to the rest of the world, but to their own people, and doctors are allegedly being told to keep things on the down-low. In the city of Wuhan, not two days after the announcement of 59 coronavirus cases, a community banquet was held for 100,000 people. If even a single infected person attended that meal, it’s possible that many tens or hundreds of infections resulted.
Ultimately I believe the People’s Republic of China lacks the robustness and haste to deal with a viral epidemic as serious as this one, and in the end it will be China which suffers the most and fights the longest. Even with cases popping up all across the world, in Europe to Africa to Japan and the United States, the free and open flow of information on the internet and in the press, as well as the developed culture and widespread education on the matter will likely cause the coronavirus to remain marginal and detained outside of China.
I do fear that despite the capabilities of western response efforts, the disease could spread to hundreds of thousands or even millions, especially due to the lengthy incubation period and heightened rate of contagion. In the end, what matters is we learn from this crisis so that when the next plague erupts, we are prepared.