How’s China Handling the Novel Coronavirus?

It’s been two weeks since the word coronavirus entered the common lexicon of people around the world. There has been no apocalypse, but how are things going? Here’s a quick update on the good, bad and the ugly.

First, the new confirmed cases of the virus have reached more than 17,000 around the world (as of Feb 3rd morning, Beijing time). About 360 people have died so far. Now let’s break it down to get some comforting facts.

=> 99% of the coronavirus cases are in China

=> Only 1 person has died outside of China — it was a Chinese man from Wuhan who died in the Philippines

=> Even in China, the problem is concentrated in one province: Hubei (where the city of Wuhan is located). Almost all the deaths (98%) in China are from Hubei:

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Orange — all of China; Blue — Hubei province

And about 75% of all the new cases in China are also from Hubei:

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Orange — all of China; Blue — Hubei province

Thus, China’s containment policy is working well so far.  And most countries have also started restricting/banning flights from China. Thus, the rest of the world is going to be very safe. In the US, there have been only 8 cases and they are all under treatment and supervision.

Another good news is that the mortality rate is actually going down. In fact, more people have recovered from the virus than those who have died from it — 527 to 360, as of Feb 3rd (link). Also, there’s a significant difference between the mortality rates in Wuhan (4%) versus the rest of China (0.14%). That’s a 35x difference!

On the treatment side, doctors have found out some existing antiviral drugs that seem to work very well against nCov2019. In Thailand, one patient got cured in just two days! They used a cocktail of drugs used for influenza and HIV. Chinese doctors have also been trying the anti-HIV drugs (lopinavir and ritonavir) or the past few days. China is now testing several drugs and has even started clinical trials. (Update: On Feb 17, an antiviral drug (“Favilavir”) developed by a Chinese company was formally approved for treatment of coronavirus.

Notably, China is also finding success with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and one TCM drug has worked so well for coronavirus that the drug is now being mass produced!

Oh, btw, all medical expenses for coronavirus treatments are free, thanks to China’s socialism!

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Chinese scientists have also created diagnostic kits for detecting the virus. The kits are being mass produced and sent to regions all across the nation.

China confirms death toll of 41, with 1,287 infected with coronavirus

Patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Wuhan. Credit: Xinhua News

China’s Super Efforts

The World Health Organization said, “China is actually setting new standards for outbreak response!” Well, to start with, China has quarantined about 10 cities with a total population of 50 million people. Nothing like that can happen in other countries. Chinese officials have also extended nationwide the New Year holidays for another week. So, schools, subways, offices, malls and other places won’t help spread the virus.

Chinese private companies are also stepping up — for example, one company built an entire factory in just one week and is now producing millions of surgical masks every day!

As for Hubei — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak — China has done something simply astonishing: they built two massive hospitals … in just ten days. Chinese workers were on it 24 hours a day, and the result is just miraculous:

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DAY 1

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Day 10 — Huoshenshan Hospital

These two — named, Huoshenshan and Leishenshan — are proper hospitals with water, electricity, X-ray machines, MRI and CT scan machines and everything else you could think of. Just imagine the planning, coordination and incredible execution that it took to accomplish this! Oh, they also have 5G from Huawei, so experts from other parts of China can perform remote diagnosis and access all the data (from MRI scans etc.) quickly. Check out what the hospitals look like:

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Beijing also has sent 7000 doctors, nurses and technicians to Wuhan to help the local doctors who’re obviously overwhelmed by this crisis.

Wuhan help from outside

Criticism

US media have predictably complained about China screwed up the initial diagnosis or silenced some doctors. However, that seems like nitpicking with the benefits of hindsight.

Update: (Feb 20) Look how Japan and the US have been screwing up big time the handling of coronavirus. Japan’s mishandling of a cruise ship led to 600 people getting the coronavirus. The US government then flew both sick and healthy people in the same plane from Japan to the US, leading to infection among the healthy group.

The first time that Wuhan hospitals saw an uptick in patients with pneumonia was in the third week of December.

Dec 26: Some Wuhan doctors alert Beijing officials about a possible new virus

Dec 30: Chinese CDC issued a warning about the outbreak;

Dec 31: Wuhan wild life market was shut down

Jan 5: China finished the genomic sequence of the virus;

Jan 7: Xi Jinping gave a speech on the virus;

Jan 10: Chinese scientists published the full genomic sequence of the virus; six days later Wuhan entered partial quarantine.

Not sure how anyone could do better.

There is also some fake news about Chinese officials arresting whistleblowers. Not true. What happened was that some doctors discussed in a chat group that the new virus might be SARS; and they were brought to a police station and warned not to spread rumors — hey, it’s still China. The important thing here is that doctors discussed this on Dec 30 — on the same day that China’s CDC warned about an outbreak. Thus, it’s not like these doctors knew anything before the Chinese government. (And the doctors were obviously wrong about SARS as well).

Here’s the timeline from the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine:

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The next two weeks will be crucial in this battle against the novel coronavirus. The effect of coronavirus on global stock markets and economies around the world will definitely be felt acutely this quarter. Let’s see how it all unfolds…

EXTRA:

Time lapse video of one of the hospitals being built day and night…

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