The spread of the Coronavirus

Photo+Courtesy+of+the+New+York+Times

Photo Courtesy of the New York Times

Nikhil Sriram, Souvik Ghosh, and Samuel Du

This past December marked the outbreak of the deadly strain of novel Coronavirus, termed COVID-19, which has now afflicted over 90,000 people around the world, originating in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province. South China has dealt with disease outbreaks and mass hysteria in the past, being the epicenter of the 2003 SARS epidemic with 8,422 recorded cases and a relatively high 11% casualty rate. In response to the growing hysteria that ensued following the initial cases and reports of Coronavirus, the Chinese government was quick to issue a full quarantine of 45 million citizens in the Hubei region. However, the virus has still continued to spread globally.

Similar to the past global strains of the Coronavirus, MERS and SARS, the 2019 novel Coronavirus is believed to have originated from either bats or snakes in the densely-populated marketplaces of Southern China. The major symptom of a coronavirus contraction is viral pneumonia, untreatable by antibiotics and antiviral drugs. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. As of March 2, an estimated 3,118 people have passed away due to the virus. The mortality rate of COVID-19 is an estimated 3%, a lethality much lower than that of its predecessors. 

On Jan. 23, the government began its quarantine of the Hubei region, including the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang, Ezhou, and Chiba, alongside a soft lockdown issued on the cities near the quarantine. The government-run broadcaster CCTV issued an advisory to limit outside activities and avoid person-to-person contact to contain the spread of the virus. Commercial activity has since declined in the quarantined regions, with Starbucks shutting down its 2000 cafes in the region and all the regional movie theaters closing down. 

Due to the increasingly globalized nature of the economy, any economic downturn in Southern China can quickly spread outwards, dampening economies across the world. A study by the World Bank found that a severe pandemic could cause economic losses equal to nearly 5% of global GDP, or more than $3 trillion. Losses from a weaker flu pandemic, such as the 2009 H1N1 virus, can still wipe 0.5% off global GDP.

Despite the best efforts of the Chinese authorities, COVID-19 has still managed to spread abroad. The global infection rate has surpassed 10,282 cases in 76 countries. South Korea has more than 4,000 confirmed cases, while Italy has over 2,000. In addition, a cruise ship named the Diamond Princess, carrying 3,711 passengers and crew, was quarantined on Feb. 3 by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare after a passenger tested positive for the virus. The ship has been stationed in Japan’s Port of Yokohama and there have been 705 cases of COVID-19 with seven deaths. In the United States, there have been 99 reported cases with six deaths. 

 In response to the outbreak, the Trump administration has taken several precautions to combat the domestic threat of the virus, evacuating groups of American citizens from Wuhan, with reports even suggesting that a total travel ban on Chinese flights has been considered as a highly viable solution. Simultaneously, the Center For Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), have issued severe warnings against travelling to China, to avoid possible contact with the virus. Nonetheless, CDC officials recently stated that the spread of Coronavirus to the US is “inevitable,” with Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the National Center for Immunisation and Respiratory Diseases adding that “Disruption to everyday life might be severe.” Fears of an impending pandemic have already impacted the economy, as the Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 3,000 points before increasing 5.1% on March 2. 

The containment response to COVID-19 has been the quickest in history, mainly due to the decision Chinese authorities made to share developing information with the public. As soon as Chinese officials isolated the virus’s genetic sequence and shared it with the public, virologists and immunologists around the world began working towards a vaccine. 

Junior Casey Hishinuma recognizes the large-scale action organizations have taken to contain the virus.

“I think it’s great that the government is taking such meaningful steps to challenge the spread of the Coronavirus within the U.S,” Hishinuma said. “I truly hope we can stop the virus from spreading any further.”