7 PM |China has responded promptly, but its efforts may have come a bit too late: On novel Coronavirus|30th January 2020


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  • On 31 December 2019, WHO was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The virus did not match any other known virus. This raised concern because when a virus is new, we do not know how it affects people.
  • One week later, on 7 January, Chinese authorities confirmed that they had identified a new virus. The new virus is a coronavirus, which is a family of viruses that include the common cold, and viruses such as SARS and MERS. This new virus was temporarily named “2019-nCoV.”


  • Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). 
Infographic showing the symptoms of the coronavirus
  • A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. This new virus is temporarily named “2019-nCoV.”
  • Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.
  • Symptoms:Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. 
  • Prevention:Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS):

  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus, called SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV).
  • SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003. Over the next few months, the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained. 
  • In general, SARS begins with a high fever (temperature greater than 100.4°F. Other symptoms may include headache, an overall feeling of discomfort, and body aches. 
  • After 2 to 7 days, SARS patients may develop a dry cough. Most patients develop pneumonia.
  • The main way that SARS seems to spread is by close person-to-person contact. The virus that causes SARS is thought to be transmitted most readily by respiratory droplets (droplet spread) produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 

Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS):

  • Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus, or MERS‐CoV) that was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
  • Typical MERS symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is common, but not always present. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhoea, have also been reported.
  • Although most of human cases of MERS-CoV infections have been attributed to human-to-human infections in health care settings.
  • The route of transmission from animals to humans is not fully understood, but dromedary camels are the major reservoir host for MERS-CoV.
  • Since 2012, 27 countries have reported cases of MERS including Algeria, Austria, Bahrain, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Islamic Republic of Iran, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Yemen. Approximately 80% of human cases have been reported by Saudi Arabia.

Comparison between SARS, MERS and 2019-nCoV:

  • Place of Origin: SARS outbroke in late 2002 and originated from Beijing, China and later spread to 29 countries while MERS in 2012 outbroke in Middle east region primarily affecting Saudi Arabia. 2019-nCoV originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China.
  • Contagiousity:
  • The attack rate or transmissibility (how rapidly the disease spreads) of a virus is indicated by its reproductive number (Ro, pronounced R-nought or r-zero), which represents the average number of people who will catch the disease from a single infected person.
  • According to Preliminary studies, for the Wuhan Coronavirus, this parameter is estimated to be between 2.0 and 3.1.
  • The WHO noted on January 23 that human-to-human transmission was occurring and a preliminary Ro estimate of 1.4-2.5.
  • The Ro for the common flu is 1.3 and for SARS it was 2.0.
  • Fatality rate:
  • According to WHO, the novel coronavirus case fatality rate is currently estimated at around 2%. Fatality rate can change as a virus can mutate, according to epidemiologists.
  • For comparison, the case fatality rate with seasonal flu is less than 0.01%. SARS had a fatality rate of 9.6% while MERS had a fatality rate of 34.4%.

Global impact:

Map: How the virus has spread in China
  • Impact on Airline industry: The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV, or Wuhan coronavirus) has spread to 21 countries and territories worldwide, with 7,848 confirmed cases and 170 deaths as of January 30, 2020. This has resulted into travel advisories from various countries impacting the airline connectivity to the region. With China placing formal travel restrictions on tens of millions of people, and millions more around the world evaluating the potential exposure to the virus, economic impacts from the outbreak will extend beyond China’s borders.
  • Quarantining cities: Wuhan (the city where the virus originated) is the largest city in Central China, with a population of over 11 million people. The city, On January 23, shut down transport links. The effectiveness of mass quarantines is questionable, as they may accelerate transmission by concentrating populations. Quarantines can also foster opposition to government officials, as citizens struggle to access food and other basic social services.
  • Impact on Chinese Economy: According to Reuters, the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic shaved off a little more than one percent of China’s gross domestic product. The impact of 2019-nCoV depends on whether the virus is contained or if it turns into a full-blown pandemic, but at a minimum, there will be a substantial hit to China’s 2020 growth prospects.
  • Impact on global economy: The Eurasia Group estimates that a shock similar in magnitude to the 2003 SARS outbreak would lower global growth by 0.25-0.35 percentage points this year.
  • US-China Trade deal:
  • A recent trade deal between Beijing and Washington could suffer “collateral damage” if the spread of coronavirus in China causes prolonged demand disruption. China has committed to 88.3% increase in imports of manufactured goods from the U.S. in 2021 versus 2017. A prolonged demand interruption could make delivering those targets more difficult.
  • China, in the deal signed on January 15, promised to buy at least an additional US$12.5 billion worth of US farm products in 2020 and at least US$19.5 billion in 2021 over the 2017 level of US$24 billion.
  • Agricultural producers have grown worried China’s demand will temporarily suffer as the government has quarantined cities in a bid to contain the coronavirus. Delays or reductions in 
  • China’s planned purchases  could put more pressure on US farm incomes that suffered during the countries’ bruising trade war.
  • The increased uncertainty is playing out in financial markets, with all major U.S. stock indices losing ground.
  • Geopolitically, the worsening crisis is by definition far more challenging than what was faced during the 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the more recent outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This crisis runs headlong into considerations of superpower rivalry and pride.
  • China, the United States, other major powers and neighboring states, as well as the WHO, are all under intensifying pressure to transcend the political barriers to cooperation and focus upon the urgent scientific and public health requirements. 
  • Stock Market: China’s Shenzhen and Shanghai composite stock market indexes fell 3.52 per cent and 2.75 per cent respectively before closing for the Lunar New Year break.

Impact on India:

  • India on January 30, 2020 reported its first positive case of novel coronavirus (nCoV). The Union ministry of health and family welfare in an official statement said a student from Kerala, who was studying in Wuhan University and travelled to India, has tested positive for the virus.
  •  Electronic Industry:
  • China accounts for 75% of total value of components used in TVs and almost 85% in case of smartphones.
  • Chinese components mkers have hiked component prices by 2-3% due to supply shortages triggered by factory shutdowns, and this could rise further unless the situation improves in the next few days.
  • The supply shortage in India will lead to increase in components prices. The hike in component prices, in turn, could result in an increase in product prices in India.
  • Sensex:
  • The MSCI World index, which captures large and mid-cap representation across 23 developed markets, has fallen 1.3% in the past 10 days.
  • The sell-off has been sharper in the MSCI Emerging Markets index, which shed 3.57%, while India’s benchmark Sensex lost nearly 2% during the period.
  • As on 28th January, the Sensex fell 0.46% to 40,966.86 points.
  • Chemical Industry:
  • India’s chemical manufacturers are likely to benefit if the coronavirus crisis continues to spread and impacts production in Hubei region of China (which has a large chemical industry).
  • Several stocks in the chemical space are gaining on expectation of benefiting from the crisis in China. Fine Organic Industries ended up 5.2 per cent at Rs 2,418.7 (as on January 29) and Navin Fluorine International gained 3.2 per cent.

Efforts being made to contain the virus:

  • Anticipating both global concern and the risk of local transmission, the Chinese have effectively placed the populations of 11 large cities, including Wuhan, under quarantine. (A quarantine is a restriction on the movement of people and goods which is intended to prevent the spread of disease or pests.)
  • Australians flown home from Wuhan, China, will be quarantined on an island for two weeks.
  • Americans, also evacuated from Wuhan, will be “temporarily housed” on an air base in California. And in South Korea, the police have been empowered to detain people who refuse to be quarantined.
  • A fresh travel advisory asking people to refrain from travelling to China has been issued by the central government of India which has ramped up screening across airports, ports and borders.
  • A 24*7 helpline has been setup by the Gol at NCDC, New Delhi to answer all queries regarding the disease. The Gol is closely monitoring the situation and has ascertained the level of preparedness in every State of India.

WHO’s response?

  • WHO advices for exit screening in countries or areas with ongoing transmission of the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV.
  • Public health authorities should provide to travellers information to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections, via health practitioners, travel health clinics, travel agencies, conveyance operators and at Points of Entry.
  • Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) advice for the public published on the WHO website contains WHO standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses, to protect yourself and others from getting sick, to stay healthy while travelling.
  • WHO has launched a Global 2019-nCoV Clinical Data Platform to allow Member States to contribute anonymized clinical data in order to inform the public health clinical response.
  • WHO in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, has set up a public private collaboration called “The Pandemic Supply Chain Network (PSCN)”. It is a Market Network that seeks to provide a platform for data sharing, market visibility, and operational coordination and connecting.
  • PSCN is launching the first of several teleconference calls with over 30 private sector organizations and 10 multilateral organizations to develop a market capacity and risk assessment for personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • The Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) under the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) is re-convened by the World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on 30 January.


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