Will coronavirus be the Black Swan that brings down the global economy in 2020? In my article, “The Things We Believe That are Untrue”, I discussed how governments worldwide have been hiding recessionary numbers from global citizens since 2008. Consequently, with the world economy already so weak, if coronavirus contributes to substantially slower economic growth rates, it could serve as the pin that finally pops the unsustainable Bubble of Everything.
So what is the coronavirus, and is the media concern surrounding it justified? A coronavirus is a type of normally mild virus that causes non-lethal respiratory viruses, but sometimes can be lethal, as has been the case with the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China. The particular trait that makes coronavirus especially sinister, however, is that, unlike its previous siblings of SARS and MERS, the Wuhan coronavirus is contagious during its asymptomatic incubation period of one to fourteen days, and therefore, can be transmitted from carriers that appear to be healthy although they already have been infected. Consequently, because its method of transmission is so stealth, it is truly difficult to assess how many people have been infected, even though media reports put the number at 2,000 to 4,000 with 100 dead thus far.
Since the transmission rate has been estimated at 2.5 people for every infected person, and the asymptomatic incubation period is up to two weeks, with 2,000 to 4,000 symptomatic people reported, realistically, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of people could potentially be already infected, depending upon the rate of transmission from infected to non-infected. Furthermore, with many Chinese traveling outside of China for the long Lunar New Year holiday, there really is no way to estimate, at the current time, how many others outside of China have been infected with the Wuhan coronavirus. Thus far, confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus have been reported in Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Cambodia, South Korea, Canada, the US, and France, and many more countries are likely to be added to this list due to the immense amount of traveling undertaken by Chinese tourists for the Lunar New Year.
One of the reasons the global reach of the Wuhan coronavirus epidemic has been difficult to gauge has been the proven and alleged lack of transparency on behalf of the Chinese government regarding the number of deaths that have resulted in China from this virus. Unsubstantiated reports emerged from Wuhan emergency medical facilities of doctors claiming that they had been ordered to refrain from diagnosing patients with conditions of “viral pneumonia”, circumstances that clouded the true extent of the human to human transmission rate in Wuhan at ground zero. Combined with information that has been scrubbed from Chinese social media platforms about the spread of the disease, the true nature of the coronavirus’s rate of transmission has been difficult to assess, especially considering that the first case of the virus was reported as far back as 8 December 2019. For example, all five confirmed cases of the reported virus in Beijing were contracted by visitors to Wuhan in January that were likely unaware of the severity of the virus due to suppression of information about it in the media. Secondly, in Wuhan, it was reported that 15 of the first 41 infected had died, a mortality rate of 36.6% or nine to ten times higher than the reported 3% go 4% mortality rate. Consequently, due to opaque reporting of the virus when it first appeared, mortality and infection rates may be much higher than the rates being reported in the media at the current time.
For example, in ten months from November 2002 to July 2003, the SARS coronavirus killed a total of 774 people and infected nearly 8,400 people. In comparison, the number infected with the Wuhan coronavirus was reported by official sources at 2,882 yesterday, but now at more than 4,500 today, it is obvious that the spread of the coronavirus happening at a much higher exponential rate than the SARS virus. Consequently, nations outside of China that are now only reporting single digit infections will nearly surely have double digit infections in a couple of days, and could report thousands of infected in a month. Though it is impossible to predict the spread of the coronavirus and the number of deaths at the current time, if current predictions are realistic, then many more heavily populated cities not only in China, but in other nations around the world could be crippled in economic activity for a few months. And if this happens, then it is certainly a viable possibility that coronavirus will be the Black Swan that finally pops the Bubble of Everything.
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