"So far, 38 airlines from 32 countries have suspended or stopped flights to and from China, most of them until the end of March 2020."
Welcome to the age of epidemics and pandemics.
An epidemic is the widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a specific community. Pandemic is when that disease leaps from country to country, continent to continent. When nearly the whole earth is covered, then it becomes a global pandemic, of course. The online dictionary says if a virus appears in two continents, it is a pandemic. An example of an ancient pandemic: Corruption.
The new coronavirus (aka 2019-nCoV; Wuhan flu in my language) has leapfrogged from Hubei province in China to the entire China and its territories, Hong Kong and Macau, then on to the rest of Asia, including Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, before jumping to Europe and North America. The fear is that nCoV could hurdle up to Africa and to the rest of the Americas. Then we have a truly global pandemic. nCoV has circumnavigated the globe faster than Magellan did in 1519 to 1522.
Should we be worried?
Well, on Oct. 18, 2019, two months before nCoV mutated from animals to humans, experts gathered by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Johns Hopkins Center for Health and Security, and the World Economic Forum had a pandemic simulation called Event201. They imagined a virus called CAPS which started with pigs in Brazil, infected people across the globe within six months and by the 18th month, had killed 65 million people and triggered a global financial crisis.
“The next severe pandemic will not only cause great illness and loss of life but could also trigger major cascading economic and societal consequences that could contribute greatly to global impact and suffering,” declared Event201.
“Given the continual emergence of new pathogens, the increasing risk of a bioterror attack, and the ever-increasing connectedness of our world, there is a significant probability that a large and lethal modern-day pandemic will occur in our lifetime,” Bill Gates said in 2018. “History has taught us there will be another deadly global pandemic,” Gates said.
Indeed, the Ebola epidemic of 2014-2016 in West Africa infected more than 28,000, killed 11,000, and collapsed local health systems before it fizzled out.
At this writing, 1:30 p.m. Feb. 4, 2020, nCoV has infected 20,626 people in 27 countries (with China, leading, with 20,438) and killed 427 (including 425 deaths in China). The Philippines claimed the first nCoV death after China, 1; followed by Hong Kong, 1.
Confirmed cases by country: China 20,438; Japan 20; Thailand 19; Singapore 18: Hong Kkong 15; South Korea 15; Australia 12; Germany 12; United States 11; Taiwan 11; Macau, Malaysia and Vietnam, 8 each; France 6; UAE 5; Canada 4; India 3; Italy, the Philippines, Russia, and UK, 2 each; Cambodia, Finland, Nepal, Spain, Sri Lanka, and Sweden, 1 each.
NCov is now present in five continents—Asia, Australia, Europe and North America, leaving only Africa, Antartica and South America as possibly next frontiers.
So far, 38 airlines from 32 countries have suspended or stopped flights to and from China, most of them until the end of March 2020.
The five biggest airlines—Delta, American Airlines, Lufthansa, United Airlines, and Air France-KLM—lead carriers which have stopped service to and from China. The five carried 828 million passengers in 2019.
Some 131 million Chinese tourists travel overseas. They spend $257.7 billion a year, the largest. The US is a poor No. 2, $135 billion. Imagine if 100 million Chinese tourists, who each spends on the average $1,961, cannot fly for six months (my estimate of the nCoV duration), that will be a loss of $98 billion from overseas Chinese tourism. In 2019, the Chinese were the second largest number of tourists in the Philippines, 1.6 million.
The previous pandemic, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which ran in 2002-2003, caused at least $40 billion in economic toll. Compared with nCov’s possible economic wreckage, $40 billion could be loose change.
China is the world’s second largest economy in nominal GDP or total output of goods and services, with $14.14 trillion, 16.3 percent of the global GDP of $86.6 trillion. In purchasing power parity or what its currency can buy in equivalent local goods, China is the biggest economy, $27 trillion.
Since 1978 when its economy opened up to the world, China has grown by 10 percent per year, rescuing 850 million from poverty. It is today a middle-income country, with each Chinese earning an annual average of $10,000.
China’s feverish growth was anchored on three things, according to the World Bank: resource-intensive manufacturing, exports, and low-paid abundant labor. In recent years, that formula has stopped working because of declining labor force growth, slowing productivity, an aging population (average age will rise from 38.9 to 43.3 by 2030; average age of the Filipino: 24); huge damage to the environment; trade tensions; and rising global protectionism.
The latter two factors, trade tensions and protectionism, will contribute to slowing China’s growth to below 6 percent this year, without nCoV. With nCoV, Oxford Economics has reduced China’s 2020 growth rate to just 5.6 percent, from 6.1 percent in 2019.
Even before NCoV, China was already suffering from excess industrial capacity, especially in ferrous and non-ferrous metals, chemicals, and transport equipment. It has an excess of 150 million tons of crude steel and 800 million tons of coal, per World Bank data.
China is the world’s factory. It accounts for 27 percent of total global manufacturing and 23 percent of global agricultural production. Imagine if you stop producing China’s manufactured goods or its agricultural output for six months, because workers and executives in China cannot go to their factories or farms for fear of nCoV virus.
But why is the world afraid of pandemics exported by China?
In 2019/20, some 19 million Americans have been sick with ordinary flu. About 10,000 of them have died. Now, 19 million is almost 6 percent of US population, meaning six of every 100 Americans have a flu or one in every 17 Americans has a flu.
Put another way, in a room, if there are 17 Americans, chances are, one will have a flu. If there are 100 Americans, six will have a flu. In the same room, if there are 17 Chinese, chances are none has nCov. Even if there 100 Chinese, chances are none has nCoV.
Yet, the Chinese are banned almost everywhere in this world. And the Americans are always welcome, except perhaps in Iran and Iraq.