Fears of a Worldwide Pandemic Heighten

Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge
Photo of the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge
source: Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The World Health Organization has decidedly said the coronavirus is not a pandemic. In a press conference Tuesday, the agency said they are hopeful that the virus can be contained. But the definition of a pandemic is subject to change depending on who you ask.

The death toll is still rising. More than  20,000 are infected in mainland China with the mysterious new coronavirus. Conservative estimates say at least 490 people are dead. But the virus has spread throughout the world with reported cases across a couple continents. Concerns are mounting as there have now been more dead in mainland China from coronavirus than SARS.

Source: CNN

Many countries have already suspended flights to mainland China. The United States is going as far as to implement a level 4 travel advisory warning — the U.S. is warning anyone who has been to the Hubei province in the last 14 days, that they may be required to go up to two weeks of quarantine. The U.S. government is also calling on its citizens, not to travel to mainland China.

The Chinese government has criticized this move as overreacting. The World Health Organization (WHO) has praised their efforts in dealing with this crisis expediently. But for those who remember their handling of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS; China’s transparency may come into question. Residents of Wuhan, have taken to social media to vent their frustrations with a government they feel has been less than honest.

Hong Kong, independent from mainland China has effectively shut off its border. Hong Kong has suspended both its railway and ferry services. Though, Hong Kong Hospital Authority workers want more done. The workers have gone on strike saying that there won’t be enough manpower, equipment, or isolation rooms to combat the virus if a full border closure is not in effect.

How Serious Is the Epidemic?

There is cause for concern since the coronavirus is easily transmitted through human contact. Officials in China have told citizens to avoid mass gatherings and public spaces. WHO has declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern.

The current outbreak has drawn in comparisons to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.

Many hospital workers are risking infection as they treat patients. As the numbers of infected continue to grow, so then does widespread concern. Health experts are sounding the alarm that a full-on pandemic is fast approaching.

Economic Concern

The virus has devastated commerce.

Beijing has been rendered a virtual ghost town. Business in China depreciating at rapid speed. Apple has closed all of its stores and corporate offices in the country.

Wuhan, a major exporting city, is responsible for steel production in key manufacturing sectors such as the automobile and electronics industry. In 2018, Hubei factories produced 2.42 million vehicles. The city is a major player for the province of Hubei which commands a little over 4 % of China’s economy.

Below is a chart of various trading partners and industries Wuhan is associated with. Number of records indicates how many companies are associated with a particular sector.

source: Data from Nikkei Asian Review

The city now in lockdown is triggering fears for foreign businesses. China’s stocks plummeted more than 7% the day the market reopened but recovered one day later. China’s contributions to the world’s GDP is significantly much larger than when the SARS outbreak occurred.

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Written by
Brian Capitao

Brian Capitao is a feature writer with a penchant for writing about countercultural movements. His work has appeared in The Plaid Zebra, NOW magazine, Panoram Italia, and OntheA.Side. He currently attends Sheridan College as part of the New Media Journalism program.

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