Or more accurately 2019-nCoV
Aside from the very real health effect for those infected, primarily in mainland China (latest WHO data at time of writing this 34,563 confirmed cases, vs 324 in rest of world) is having severe effects on parts of the economy in Asia. Or rather the panic it has induced is.
The shops and markets in Hong Kong - where there have been just 26 confirmed cases - are virtually deserted.Many businesses are reported as already having closed or on the brink of closure.
I was on a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777 from Singapore to Hong Kong yesterday, and there couldn’t have been even 30 passengers in total.
Cathay Pacific are said to have laid off large numbers of staff, other less well known local airlines perhaps even harder hit.
The people who are gaining are manufacturers of ‘surgical’ face masks, worn now by virtually everyone in public in HK, and which before this crisis were a few pence each, are selling now for the equivalent of 70p on the streets in HK - and sone places charging up to £5. And that is despite their probably minimal prophylactic effect if there were infected people in close proximity.
On the face of it the mortality rate of this new virus appears to be quite a bit higher than normal seasonal ‘flu , maybe a couple if orders of magnitude. But then we only have confirmed cases to go on, and the chances are there may be 10 times or more people actually infected, which would suggest that the mortality rate might not be much higher, or any higher, than the worse years if normal ‘flu.
So, is the panic justified? What could or should be done better in such instances? Is this the start of a pandemic such as was being widely predicted a decade ago?
Or even: are virulent diseases that perhaps kill faster in overpopulated areas nature’s way of trying to exert control over population when we humans are incapable of controlling itself ourselves (other than by war)?