Feb 052020

Max Ernst Inspired hill 1950


Hi, it’s me again, with more virus stories. I know you may think it’s enough now, but I do want to do this one. Actually, I haven’t written all that much about it, just two essays, 2019-nCoV and The Party and the Virus, but the topic has become a staple of my daily Debt Rattle news aggregators lately. So much that I find I need to remind myself all the time that it’s been a news item for only two weeks, going back to January 20 or so.

Through those two weeks, I’ve seen a number of studies, simulations, models, of where the virus can be expected to go going forward. And I want to take a look at some of them. I said early on that I didn’t like people talking about the economy as soon as the first people died, but 2 weeks later, given the growth of the epidemic, that doesn’t appear avoidable anymore.

People are starting to wonder what’s going to happen to society at large, and in “the markets” -or what’s left of them after central bank manipulation- if and when the virus remains an issue for an X amount of time. I think I can explain some of the parameters, though I want to make clear predicting what viruses do is, even for virologists, crystal ball material, and I ain’t got one of those.


China injected $242.74 billion into the markets via reverse repos on Monday and Tuesday, and stocks seem to have made up for their $445 billion losses on Monday. But what exactly is that optimism based on? Is it that “investors” think the PBOC will have their backs no matter what? Is it the reports of companies like Gilead testing possible solutions, vaccines?

I’m not an expert, but I do know it takes a sophisticated drug company about a year to develop a drug/vaccine for a novel disease, as “WuhanCorona” is. From what I can gather, the Gilead drug (co-)tested by the Chinese is basically an anti-viral developed with Ebola in mind, which may or may not work. Ebola is somewhere related to “WuhanCorona”, in a third cousin twice removed kind of way, but that’s it. HIV drugs could also perhaps work to some extent, but that’s a big question.

So what the optimism in the “markets” is based on, you tell me. Are people so afraid of what might be coming that their minds switch off, are they afraid to get informed, or do they genuinely think it’ll all soon be over? Me, I hope it’ll turn out fine, but I wouldn’t put any money on it. And that’s based on what I’ve been reading.


When reporting on the Wuhan situation started for real in the west, let’s say January 20 (that’s just 16 days ago!), there were 291 registered infection cases. There are 27,648 now, and 564 people have died. Those are “official” Chinese numbers, and there are plenty doubts about their accuracy (see today’s stories about Tencent posting 10x higher numbers), but let’s roll with the official ones for the moment. I’m going to hop through time a little, but please bear with me, there is a logic.

First, there’s this from January 28 in the SCMP (South China Morning Post), a major Hong Kong news outlet owned by -very Chinese- Alibaba. Zhong Nanshan is a scientist working for the government. My first reaction when I saw this was: it looks like he’s doing damage control for the CCP.


Chinese Experts Say Wuhan Coronavirus Outbreak Will Not Last

One of China’s top experts said the Wuhan coronavirus infection rate could peak in early February. “I estimate that it will reach its peak in around the next week or 10 days, after that there will be no more major increases,” said Zhong Nanshan, the respiratory disease scientist who played the pivotal role in China’s fight against the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) coronavirus epidemic in 2002-03.

[..] Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention [said] he was “optimistic” that the outbreak’s “turning point” could arrive by February 8 if current disease control protocol is maintained.

3 days earlier, January 25 (that’s just 11 days ago!), the SCMP ran this piece on the same Zhong Nanshan, which reinforces my image of him a bit more. One might argue that Beijing has become more transparent recently, but the facts remain that for instance the WuhanCorona virus can be traced back to early December if not earlier, and that after the first death on December 9 no testing at all was done in Wuhan for a week.

Just to name a few things. So for a scientist to claim that “Beijing has no secrets to hide” and “has not held back information in reporting the outbreak in Wuhan” is at the very least over the top.


China Has Been Transparent About Wuhan Outbreak, Virus Expert Zhong Nanshan Says

Chinese officials have been transparent in handling the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak and the participation of a Hong Kong professor through the process indicates that Beijing has no secrets to hide, said one of the country’s leading experts on communicable diseases. Dr Zhong Nanshan, whose team is advising the leadership on how to handle the crisis, told a news conference in Guangzhou on Tuesday that China had not held back information in reporting the outbreak in Wuhan, which has sickened more than 300 people across the country since early December.

But also on January 25, there was this Zero Hedge piece about British scientist Jonathan Read, who had completely different ideas about the outbreak. Note: both predictions focus on Feb 4.


UK Researcher Predicts Over 250,000 Chinese Will Have Coronavirus In Ten Days

[..] in 10 days time, or by February 4, 2020, Read’s model predicts the number of infected people in Wuhan to be greater than 250 thousand (with an prediction interval, 164,602 to 351,396); [..] Read estimates that only 5.1% of infections in Wuhan are identified (as of Jan 24)..

[..] Read’s model alleges that Beijing was woefully late in its response and that recently imposed “travel restrictions from and to Wuhan city are unlikely to be effective in halting transmission across China; with a 99% effective reduction in travel, the size of the epidemic outside of Wuhan may only be reduced by 24.9% on 4 February.”

Very different. Remember his “travel restrictions from and to Wuhan city are unlikely to be effective in halting transmission across China”, it’ll come in handy later. Now, I’ve been posting a few math sequences, Fibonacci and otherwise, and those are way too negative, or at least would seem to be.

Problem with that is, as with many facets of the whole thing, we don’t know. There are simply too many scientists who state that real infection- and fatality numbers are much higher than what Beijing reports. They do that based on models, simulations etc. Not because they want The Party (CCP) to look bad, but because the models tell them.

An example: SCMP reported early Tuesday that the mortality rate for the city of Wuhan has reached 4.9%, while the mortality rate for Hubei province as a whole is 3.1%. They added that the mortality rate is predicted by doctors to drop, because extra medical attention is available etc. But we know that extra attention threatens to be overwhelmed by too many patients, shortages of beds, equipment, test kits, protective clothing etc. Nice try, but…


All this just to get to why I started writing this, which is a report published at The Lancet on January 31, from Hong Kong University (HKU). I have cited previously that it estimated 75,815 people had been infected in Wuhan on January 25, a far cry from the 1,300 official number at that point. And yes, I do want to use the discrepancy to cast at least some doubt on the official numbers.

But there’s something else that I would like to focus on. The same report also says that the epidemic -or episode, pandemic- would end “around April” 2020, so between, say, mid-March and mid-May, 6 weeks and 14 weeks from now, if certain conditions are met. And that’s just Wuhan. Add another 2 weeks “across cities in mainland China”.

The full name of the paper by Prof Joseph T. Wu, PhD, Kathy Leung, PhD and Prof Gabriel M. Leung, MD is “Nowcasting and forecasting the potential domestic and international spread of the 2019-nCoV outbreak originating in Wuhan, China: a modelling study”

It says: “We estimated that if there was no reduction in transmissibility, the Wuhan epidemic would peak around April, 2020, and local epidemics across cities in mainland China would lag by 1–2 weeks.”

[..] In this modelling study, we first inferred the basic reproductive number of 2019-nCoV and the outbreak size in Wuhan from Dec 1, 2019, to Jan 25, 2020, on the basis of the number of cases exported from Wuhan to cities outside mainland China. We then estimated the number of cases that had been exported from Wuhan to other cities in mainland China. Finally, we forecasted the spread of 2019-nCoV within and outside mainland China, accounting for the Greater Wuhan region quarantine implemented since Jan 23–24, 2020, and other public health interventions.

Figure 2 summarises our estimates of the basic reproductive number R0 and the outbreak size of 2019-nCoV in Wuhan as of Jan 25, 2020. In our baseline scenario, we estimated that R0 was 2·68 (95% CrI 2·47–2·86) with an epidemic doubling time of 6·4 days (95% CrI 5·8–7·1;).

We estimated that 75 815 individuals (95% CrI 37 304- 130 330) had been infected in Greater Wuhan as of Jan 25, 2020. We also estimated that Chongqing, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, had imported 461 (227–805), 113 (57–193), 98 (49–168), 111 (56–191), and 80 (40–139) infections from Wuhan, respectively.

Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen were the mainland Chinese cities that together accounted for 53% of all outbound international air travel from China and 69% of international air travel outside Asia, whereas Chongqing is a large metropolis that has a population of 32 million and very high ground traffic volumes with Wuhan. Substantial epidemic take-off in these cities would thus contribute to the spread of 2019-nCoV within and outside mainland China.


Figure 2 – Posterior distributions of estimated basic reproductive number and estimated outbreak size in greater Wuhan
NOTE: a zoonosis is an infectious disease that can spread between animals and humans. FOI = force of infection


Figure 4 shows the epidemic curves for Wuhan, Chongqing, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen with a R0 of 2·68, assuming 0%, 25%, or 50% decrease in transmissibility across all cities, together with 0% or 50% reduction in inter-city mobility after Wuhan was quarantined on Jan 23, 2020.

The epidemics would fade out if transmissibility was reduced by more than 1–1/R0=63%. Our estimates suggested that a 50% reduction in inter-city mobility would have a negligible effect on epidemic dynamics.

We estimated that if there was no reduction in transmissibility, the Wuhan epidemic would peak around April, 2020, and local epidemics across cities in mainland China would lag by 1–2 weeks.

If transmissibility was reduced by 25% in all cities domestically, then both the growth rate and magnitude of local epidemics would be substantially reduced; the epidemic peak would be delayed by about 1 month and its magnitude reduced by about 50%.

A 50% reduction in transmissibility would push the viral reproductive number to about 1·3, in which case the epidemic would grow slowly without peaking during the first half of 2020.

However, our simulation suggested that wholesale quarantine of population movement in Greater Wuhan would have had a negligible effect on the forward trajectories of the epidemic because multiple major Chinese cities had already been seeded with more than dozens of infections each.

The probability that the chain of transmission initiated by an infected case would fade out without causing exponential epidemic growth decreases sharply as R0 increases (eg, <0·2 when R0>2).

As such, given the substantial volume of case importation from Wuhan, local epidemics are probably already growing exponentially in multiple major Chinese cities.

Given that Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen together accounted for more than 50% of all outbound international air travel in mainland China, other countries would likely be at risk of experiencing 2019-nCoV epidemics during the first half of 2020.


Figure 4 – Epidemic forecasts for Wuhan and five other Chinese cities under different scenarios of reduction in transmissibility and inter-city mobility


Ergo: reducing mobility is ineffective because too much mobility had already happened prior to the lockdowns. That ship has sailed. Not that one shouldn’t try to limit mobility, but it can’t stop the disease from spreading. The HKU team doesn’t say much about how they would see transmissibility lowered, but that seems to come down to more, and intense, lockdowns.

There’s a cruise ship floating off Yokohama where everyone is ordered to stay in their cabin because of the virus. Think along those lines: ordering people to stay in their homes. Sort of like the Black Death plague in 14th century Europe.

Perhaps there are anti-virals that can lower transmissibility somewhat, but that is by no means sure. The discovery ofasymptomatic transmitters doesn’t help either. You can’t very well test everyone, you test those with symptoms.

Chinese health authorities have identified a number of patients who have become carriers and transmitters of the coronavirus despite showing no outward symptoms of the disease. Li Xingwang, chief infectious diseases expert at Beijing Ditan Hospital, said most of the “dormant” carriers were related to and had caught the virus from patients with symptoms.

“These [carriers] have the virus and can transmit it. The amount of virus correlates to the severity of the illness, which means these patients carry less of the virus and their ability to transmit disease is weaker,” Li said.


Lunar New Year holidays have been extended everywhere across China, except in a few rare places. Major cities are under full lockdown. Western companies are scrambling to find alternative suppliers. Just 2 weeks into the epidemic. What happens when the factories stay closed for 6 or 16 more weeks?

Where will Chinese and western stocks be then? Xi Jinping has declared the WuhanCorona virus the number 1 threat. How can he order the factories to re-open before mid-April at the earliest then, when the peak of the epidemic hasn’t even been reached? But at the same time, can he afford to order all production shut for 2-3-4 months?

Thing about such peaks is, you can only see them in the rearview mirror. But you can bet that in 2-3 weeks max, people will solemnly declare the peak is here. Because the existing but especially potential economic damage will be so great. Bur declaring a peak too soon, let alone the end of the epidemic, is too much of a risk.

The way things are going, pretty soon there won’t be any westerners left in China, other than those who wish to stay permanently. Many if not most factories will be closed. No Chinese will be allowed to visit the rest of the world, while Chinese products will not ship there.

The big lockdown has just begun. Because once you start it, you can’t go back until you can prove that everything is safe. And that will in all likelihood take a long time, months. When will absolutely everybody have faith that everything is safe? When nobody falls ill anymore, when nobody can infect other people anymore.

But that’s a long way away. April, May, or later? And that in an economic system built on just-in-time delivery? Chinese oil demand is allegedly down 20% already. How can oil prices not fall if that is true? Since those prices are linked to the US dollar, what will happen with the currency?

There are too many questions that nobody can answer, or even try to. That’s complex systems for you. And I really really hope I’m wrong, but the way out of the lockdown is not clear at all.

The world cannot afford the risk of consciously helping to spread a lethal pandemic. And the only way to prevent it may be the big lockdown. Unless there’s a vaccine. But there isn’t one right now.

Overly alarmist, you say? Let’s hope so.



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Home Forums The Big Lockdown

Viewing 23 posts - 1 through 23 (of 23 total)
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  • #53551

    Max Ernst Inspired hill 1950   Hi, it’s me again, with more virus stories. I know you may think it’s enough now, but I do want to do this one. Ac
    [See the full post at: The Big Lockdown]

    V. Arnold

    Max Ernst Inspired hill 1950
    Wow, that’s quite a painting (oil on canvas); somewhat surreal…

    Thanks for keeping us updated on the ongoing health crisis.

    V. Arnold

    Basically, I’ve given up, totally, on news from 99% of the media; whether it’s print, broadcast, or the internet.
    It’s pretty much funneled me to TAE; how about that? 🙂
    We’re very close to the geographic center of this virus mess, which is not very encouraging, however, we’re keeping our powder dry, so to speak, and taking it all one day at a time…
    That said, I have zero faith in governments being effective in any meaningful way; here (especially) or anywhere else.
    Please keep the information coming; you’re a trusted source…

    Dave Note

    I think you’ve put your finger on the fulcrum of this event, the number don’t add up, dodgy or not, for this to be stabilized short of three months MINIMUM at which point China’s economy, and a large part of the world’s supply chain will lie in ruins. I heard someone make the analogy that 2019nCoV was actually attacking and exploiting a venerability in the global economy’s just-in-time immune/supply chain system.

    The global economic fiat reserve currency edifice is a colossally flawed mono-culture immune strategy and nCoV is drawing a bead on it like a Russian Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle.

    My gut intuition is twitching.

    The Global Clusterf*Ck is like a plate spinning spectacle


    Chris Martenson’s entry on Wikipedia as been removed:

    Coronavirus: The Media Says “Shoot The Messenger!”

    I find that really really amazing. And equally distressing. And equally disturbing.


    To quote Ilargi

    “The big lockdown has just begun. Because once you start it, you can’t go back until you can prove that everything is safe. And that will in all likelihood take a long time, months. When will absolutely everybody have faith that everything is safe? When nobody falls ill anymore, when nobody can infect other people anymore.”

    That is a hugely significant concept, thank you for it.

    From the moment this started I’ve been troubled by the fact that Xi and Co were willing to shut China down.

    I’ve sat in boardrooms and weighed existential business decisions and there is always somebody, a partner or fellow director, even in my small businesses who has had sufficient mental scope to ask that sort of question.

    There is no doubt in my mind that question was asked and considered as part of the giant shitstorm they were going to unleash by starting down the road to shuttering China.

    The only conclusion I can draw is that THEY KNEW even way back then WITHOUT ANY DOUBT that alternative was worse – and that thought is rather frightening.


    Almost forgot to post this screen dump from the free Flightradar24 app showing the usual jolly old air traffic floating about our skies this very morning.

    Hi Bosco, I can see you waving down there!

    They have a nice website too as many would be aware:



    Dave Note

    Max Keiser just said the corona virus isn’t a Black Swan, it’s Bat Soup!

    Doc Robinson

    Today the Lancet mentioned the use of nutrient supplements, and zinc (“safe, cheap, and readily available”).

    Specific drugs to treat 2019-nCoV will take several years to develop and evaluate. In the meantime, a range of existing host-directed therapies that have proven to be safe could potentially be repurposed to treat 2019-nCoV infection. Several marketed drugs with excellent safety profiles such as metformin, glitazones, fibrates, sartans, and atorvastin, as well as nutrient supplements and biologics could reduce immunopathology, boost immune responses, and prevent or curb ARDS. Zinc and other metal-containing formulations appear to have anti-viral activity, are safe, cheap, and readily available. These formulations could be used as adjuncts to monotherapy or as combinational therapies with cyclosporine, lopinavir–ritonavir, interferon beta‑1b, ribavirin, remdesivir, monoclonal antibodies, and anti-viral peptides targeting 2019-nCoV.11 Tocilizumab, a monoclonal antibody that targets the interleukin 6 receptor, has a good safety profile. Monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies to 2019-nCoV could be developed for post-exposure prophylaxis.



    Seems to me that it would be a lot easier to fudge the “infected” number than it would the “dead” number. I could easily see the infected number being 10, 20, even 50 times higher than reported but the dead number would be much harder to suppress. So maybe in the end the mortality rate 10 or 20 times less than we think today and this story just becomes the latest failed media driven apocalypse.


    There are 3 notions going round in my head that I’ve always marked as rather clever but it’s finally dawning on me they were not in fact prescient – they have been our really-truly-reality for quite some time now.

    Mr Kunstler:
    1. The Long Emergency
    2. This is exactly what you get in a culture where anything goes and nothing matters.

    Mr Carlin:
    3. It’s a Big Club, and You Ain’t in It.

    Apologies Ilargi your writing is filled with truisms as is Dmitri but my poor brain won’t summon them up.


    Dave Note

    When China’s Supply Chains Break, So Will The Delusion The US Economy Is Invulnerable



    Raul:. You have every right to doubt the official government figures. When it gets serious they have to lie!

    About modelling. I studied electrical engineering. We used mathematical models to predict how our electrical circuits would work. Then we would build the circuit and obtain real world results.

    Normally variations between calculated results and real results were small i.e. less than 10% and often less than 5%.

    The differences were mostly the result of electrical circuit component tolerances.

    The thing is, our models were constantly checked against real measureable results. This brings a measure of confidence in one’s modelling abilities.

    However, the same level of confidence can not be obtained when modelling intangible things!

    First there is nothing to measure! Then there is no way to measure intangibles!

    Thus there is no feedback mechanism to verify one’s model!

    Economic models are a case in point! Their dismal modelling is pie in the sky!

    Climate models are another example of terrible modelling that inspires little confidence!

    Now these medical scientists who tried modelling the coronavirus are very smart people! At least they admit their modelling is full of assumptions! Change almost any variable and you get dramatically different results!

    What I find alarming in their modelling is how changing certain assumptions doesn’t alter the outcome! That part of the model is really useful for us to know!

    That is why we need to remain wary of what our government is telling us!

    When it gets serious they have to lie to us!

    So all we are left with is watching what actions our governments are taking.

    They are quarantining people for 2 weeks for now.

    I think we will soon find out that 2 weeks of quarantining people is insufficient time to stop the spread of this virus!

    Another thing we are finding out is people need to be tested multiple times as often the first test is negative!


    Raul:. I know you will probably laugh, but you know the coronavirus is serious when the powers to be, besides lying to us, are busy knocking down the price of gold and trying to boost paper markets!

    Them there are serious actions!


    I think you can write what ever you want. We nearly lost the Debt rattle not so long ago. Just keep writing about what ever inspires you. But if I had my way it would be less US politics and more environmental shift and change which the virus most definitely falls under. The bigger the system the more interesting for me and lets face it the US is not that interesting.

    V. Arnold

    I’m with you right up to: But if I had my way it would be less US politics and more environmental shift and change which the virus most definitely falls under.
    I prefer: I think you can write what ever you want. We nearly lost the Debt rattle not so long ago. Just keep writing about what ever inspires you.

    Ilargi’s success is his unfettered writing; that which he’s inspired to write…

    Dave Note

    A case in point about climate modeling. Peter Wadhams studied Arctic ice for 40+ years by actually going to the arctic and measuring the ice, often from below in submarines. His actual data was not consulted by a lot of climate modellers because his actual data didn’t match their theoretical models. Especially ice volume. The modellers loved to fixate on surface extent and left out ice thickness. The official reports sighted by governments most often favored modellers over those in the field. The modellers insisted the errors were alway in actually measuring the ice, not their models.

    The Arctic Death Spiral Ice Volume Map



    Vaccine is not the way out of this. If you think that only big pharma will save us you will surely be disappointed. As a refresher: if you are dealing with a virus which mutates extremely quickly, the ability of a vaccine to treat it will be very limited because vaccines are one-track ponies. That is why every year when the flu vaccine gets rolled out vaccine makers have to guess what strain to focus on. If they guess wrong the vaccine is a miss. According to CDC the effectiveness of the flu vaccine has never been higher than 50 percent and recently has been as low as 20 percent.
    Herbal knowledge for health, as with indigenous knowledge for fire management in Australia, has much to teach us. In a situation as dire as this, contrary to what many may think, only alternative therapies will help (including the zinc someone mentioned plus silver but don’t forget a good dose of pressed garlic).


    “Hi Bosco, I can see you waving down there!”

    I dreamed I was in Eurafricasia, waving at the sky…


    A couple of questions

    1. Survival rate vs death rate
    2. Immunity vs re-infection

    I used to get the yearly flue. Yes, I know, it was a different flue every year. Did the old flue die out? Or was I immune to the old flue?
    Did having gotten those flue affect my immune system and made me less of a target for the new flues coming every year?

    This flue still has not reached the death toll of the regular flue. In la-la-land the annual death from the flue is said to be 10,000 per year ???
    The regular flue kills the old, weak, poor. just like the corona virus.
    I still don’t know anyone who died from the regular flue.

    Dr. D

    Agree: the U.S. is NOT that interesting. Media selection bias. The economy/environment is more meaningful than clown shows. …It’s just that I live with these clowns, so….

    For Kung-flu, without solid facts because everybody is lying with every breath like air, and because the data points don’t match, you can see me developing a model by trying new ideas. Luckily I don’t have to act on this information yet because I don’t know. Since action-item, I did solidly get 2 weeks of food to get boarded up in my house by the army, but the problem is more likely to be car parts…so the grid isn’t repaired…and the water purification plants are overused and overdue for parts…which don’t get fixed…and so on. No surprise, it’s a miracle any of it works even now, and it already didn’t in Flint. This is how you de-centralize. And how the centralization is fatally discredited, when it’s been ruining, impoverishing people, hasn’t worked correctly for 100 years, probably since it was built. Maybe this will make them notice for a change when the taps shut off.

    ..Long since collapsed for poor folks. That’s why they’re cranky.


    Boring as the impeachment circus can be, it’s a valuable canary in the coal mine.


    These numbers will be hard to lie about.

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