For weeks, officials throughout the world assured us that the novel coronavirus was nothing to worry about; that China had things under control. For weeks, the World Health Organization told us not to use the word “pandemic.”
At the end of January, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a “global health emergency” and the Trump Administration implemented the first federally mandated quarantine measures in more than 50 years.
Last week, we found out that China tried to silence the doctors who initially reported the coronavirus and may have downplayed the severity of the disease. At least two of those doctors are now dead.
The first doctors to report the coronavirus compared it to SARS, a highly-infectious respiratory disease that killed 774 people and infected 8,000 after originating in China in the early 2000’s.
Last month, China said the new illness was nothing like SARS and questioned the virus’s ability to pass from one person to another. On February 8th, deaths from the coronavirus eclipsed those caused by the SARS epidemic.
To date, the coronavirus has caused over 1000 deaths in China and Hong Kong; 780 of those deaths occurred in the Chinese province of Hubei, where the virus originated. More than 37,000 people have been infected, with some experiencing no symptoms while spreading the disease to others. The coronavirus has a mortality rate of about 2% worldwide (4% if you live in Hubei). SARS has a mortality rate of 9%.
Speaking to BBC on Sunday, China’s ambassador to Britain described the virus as “the enemy of mankind.”
France recorded 5 new cases of the virus on Saturday, including a 9-year-old boy, bringing the nation’s total number to 11.
This weekend, China agreed to allow an international team of experts into the country to investigate. In the meantime, millions of Chinese residents are under quarantine as officials implement wartime measures to halt the spread of the disease.
Schools and factories are closed, highways are blocked, and flights have been canceled. In Wuhan, officials closed public transportation without warning and have ordered all residents to report their body temperatures to health officials daily. Those who succumb to the virus are cremated immediately without funerals.
The epidemic is poised to have a major effect on financial markets, and some investors have already switched to safe havens like gold, bonds, and the Japanese yen.
As China prepares to allow employees in key industries back to work on Monday, residents are voicing their frustration on social media.
“What’s even more frustrating is that these are only the ‘official data,’” said one user.
“More than 20,000 doctors and nurses around the country have been sent to Hubei, but why are the numbers still rising?” asked another.