Coronavirus is now a #1 topic in mass media. The information published is quite controversial, ranging from the forecasts that 2019-nCoV is a global threat to all humankind to the supposition that the virus is a problem of certain Chinese provinces only, and the epidemic will die out on its own. We tried to understand the situation by learning the opinions of experts, as well as of people in close vicinity to the epidemic outbreak.
Does coronavirus threaten the whole world?
At the end of January, the WHO declared the outbreak of 2019-nCoV an emergency, and mass media immediately caught up this news hook. This hardly means that we are all in immediate danger and can become infected at any moment, but still, the virus has spread beyond China.
Chart of the increase in the number of infected and recovered in China and the rest of the world, source
When the outbreak started in Wuhan, doctors had to deal with a great many neglected cases. Hundreds of people died simply because they didn’t receive medical aid timely. Eyewitnesses say on WeChat that even now Wuhan clinics don’t cope with the flow of patients and can provide immediate help only to the most “difficult” ones. But in other countries, the situation is completely different. In order to figure out how likely the spread of nCoV across Europe and America is, we asked experts about it.
Igor Ivanovich Generalov, Ph.D. in Medical Science, professor, Head of Clinical Microbiology Department in Vitebsk State Medical University:
“The virus has not been studied fully yet, and now Chinese experts have much more information about it than scientists from other countries. The situation is constantly changing, and I would recommend everyone interested in the topic to follow the news in the Lancet journal. However, we can already make some preliminary conclusions. Catching the nCoV virus is many times more difficult than catching normal flu, even in case of contacting an infectee. Although the coronavirus vaccine has not been invented yet, quarantine activities allow significantly reducing the spread of infection. The virus is not highly persistent and can be destroyed with basic disinfectants and heating. With the effectiveness of these measures, it is highly likely that the epidemic will decline within a month.”
Nikolay Semioshko, Doctor of Psychosomatische Frachklinik in Gengenbach, Germany:
“It’s just panic, which was also there during the outbreaks of Avian and Swine influenzas. According to official sources, the death rate from the new virus is about 1%, which is approximately at the level of a normal infection. For pharmaceutical companies, this is another way to earn billions of euros, from selling masks (which, in fact, are not that effective) to selling a vaccine against a “new” infection.”
Therefore, it can be concluded that the epidemic is not an extreme threat and would rather die out in the East than seriously flare up in the West.
Currently, active quarantine measures are being carried out in China, which also affect foreign trade relations. It has become much more difficult to order the delivery of goods or equipment from China: when trying to buy new laptops, the third distributor reports that the warehouses are empty and the delivery time for a new batch is unknown. And the problem is not in the delivery from China itself – the virus is not transmitted through objects, and even if it gets into the cargo compartment, it will die in 6 hours max. The problem is that there are not enough employees in harbors, airports, and logistics centers – people and enterprises are under quarantine. The epidemic strikes another blow against the already slowing Chinese economy.
The situation at the epicenter of the epidemic
To see the most objective picture of what is happening in China, we turned to those who saw it all with their own eyes.
Anastasia Svetlova, Shanghai University, Shanghai:
“I can say that the situation with the virus is not as terrible as it is presented in mass media. In Shanghai, where I live, everything is peaceful. The fact that there are no people on the streets is associated exclusively with the Chinese New Year. I observe streets becoming empty and shops being closed every year. Everything will be back to normal after the holidays. Extra preventive measures are being taken now, so people are strongly advised to wear masks and follow hygiene practices. Vacations at universities and schools were also prolonged, so all students stay in their provinces. None of the people I know have caught the virus. But all my friends and acquaintances decided to leave for other countries or go home, as there is neither work nor study now. So did I. And it’s not because I’m afraid of getting infected but because a lot of free time has formed. So why not use it wisely and travel?”
However, a comment from Anastasia was received about a week before publication. Perhaps the situation has changed now? Let’s see what those who are currently in China for study and work say in Russian-language chat rooms on WeChat.
“There is a tent with sprayers at the entrances and exits of the residential complex, everyone has their bodies temperature checked.”
“People are sealed in their apartments. Social workers come to bring food and pick up trash. Although the virus has not been detected in this region yet.”
“Today they said to bring the documents to the administrator, they will let us out every two days to buy food.”
We also managed to contact via WeChat a resident of Hubei Province who has been ill with coronavirus for 10 days and is undergoing home treatment:
“I stayed at home because hospitals are overcrowded. I live alone, I have no one to infect, it’s easier for me. The house is under quarantine, I have a supply of food and all the necessary medicines, I regularly take them and disinfect my apartment. Now I feel good, the fever has gone, I move freely around the apartment. I will have follow-up tests in five days, I hope that I was able to recover fully.”
As we can see, anti-epidemic measures in China are becoming more and more serious. Although people in quarantined houses are not to be envied, on the global level, such measures really help to overcome the epidemic quickly. Such localization allows minimizing the risks of spreading the infection to other countries, and being on the alert, special services are really able to cope with isolated cases. Whether the infection will decline over a month or not, we will see in a month, but so far, there is no reason to panic.