Jun 012020
 


Christo & Jeanne Claude The Gates, Central Park NYC 2005 (Christo died yesterday at 84)

 

 

New Coronavirus Losing Potency, Top Italian Doctor Says (R.)
Russia To Roll Out ‘Game Changer’ COVID19 Drug Next Week (R.)
UK Has One Of Highest COVID19-Related Excess Deaths Levels In Europe (G.)
Health Officials Make Last-Minute Plea To Stop Lockdown Easing In England (G.)
It’s The Virus, Stupid! (AHEB)
Australia’s Stalled Migrant Boom Derails Golden Economic Run (R.)
Asia Stocks Hit 3-Month Peaks, Resilient To US Rioting (R.)
Asia’s Factory Pain Worsens As China’s Recovery Fails To Lift Demand (R.)
The Stunning Chart That Blows Up All Of Modern Central Banking (ZH)
FBI’s Top Lawyer Resigns As Agency Faces Pressure From Trump (R.)

 

 

The riots have completely taken over the -US- news cycle from COVID19, to such an extent that I don’t really know what to add to it. Only perhaps to say there is an enormous amount of brutal videos circling around, more than on any topic ever before, and there’s no way that doesn’t influence people on all sides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Counted from Saturday, since there was no Debt Rattle yesterday:

Cases 6,288,176 (+ 233,399 from Saturday’s 6,054,777)

Deaths 374,327(+ 7,039 from Saturday’s 367,288)

 

 

 

Note: I dropped the SCMP graph, it doesn’t appear very useful anymore.

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Would be good news, but this sounds a little goal-seeked.

New Coronavirus Losing Potency, Top Italian Doctor Says (R.)

The new coronavirus is losing its potency and has become much less lethal, a senior Italian doctor said on Sunday. “In reality, the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy,” said Alberto Zangrillo, the head of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan in the northern region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of Italy’s coronavirus contagion. “The swabs that were performed over the last 10 days showed a viral load in quantitative terms that was absolutely infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out a month or two months ago,” he told RAI television. Italy has the third highest death toll in the world from COVID-19, with 33,415 people dying since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21. It has the sixth highest global tally of cases at 233,019.

However new infections and fatalities have fallen steadily in May and the country is unwinding some of the most rigid lockdown restrictions introduced anywhere on the continent. Zangrillo said some experts were too alarmist about the prospect of a second wave of infections and politicians needed to take into account the new reality. “We’ve got to get back to being a normal country,” he said. “Someone has to take responsibility for terrorizing the country.” The government urged caution, saying it was far too soon to claim victory. “Pending scientific evidence to support the thesis that the virus has disappeared … I would invite those who say they are sure of it not to confuse Italians,” Sandra Zampa, an undersecretary at the health ministry, said in a statement.


“We should instead invite Italians to maintain the maximum caution, maintain physical distancing, avoid large groups, to frequently wash their hands and to wear masks.” A second doctor from northern Italy told the national ANSA news agency that he was also seeing the coronavirus weaken. “The strength the virus had two months ago is not the same strength it has today,” said Matteo Bassetti, head of the infectious diseases clinic at the San Martino hospital in the city of Genoa. “It is clear that today the COVID-19 disease is different.”

Read more …

A bit better than remdesivir (which is not hard), and worse than HCQ?! What game is it that will be changed?

Russia To Roll Out ‘Game Changer’ COVID19 Drug Next Week (R.)

Russia will start administering its first approved antiviral drug to treat coronavirus patients next week, its state financial backer told Reuters, a move it described as “a game changer” that should speed a return to normal economic life. Russian hospitals can begin giving the drug to patients from June 11, with enough to treat around 60,000 people per month, the head of Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund told Reuters in an interview. There is currently no approved vaccine for the highly contagious and sometimes fatal illness and no consensus within the global scientific community about the efficacy of medication such as the Russian modified antiviral drug.

Registered under the name Avifavir, it is the first potential coronavirus treatment to be approved by Russia’s health ministry, however. It appeared on a government list of approved drugs on Saturday after clinical trials. RDIF head Kirill Dmitriev said clinical trials involved 330 people and showed that the drug successfully treated the virus in most cases within four days. Trials were due to be concluded in around a week, he said, and more would be conducted. The health ministry had given its approval for the drug’s use under a special accelerated process and manufacturing had begun in March, he added. “We believe this is a game changer. It will reduce strain on the healthcare system, we’ll have fewer people getting into a critical condition, and for 90% of people it eliminates the virus within 10 days,” he said.

“We believe that the drug is key to resuming full economic activity in Russia. People need to follow social distancing rules, and of course we need to have a vaccine, but it’s a combination of those three levers.” With 405,843 cases, Russia has the third highest number of infections in the world after Brazil and the United States, though with 4,693 official deaths, a much lower fatality rate, something that has been the focus of debate. Dmitriev said the new drug, which comes in tablet form, would allow people to spend less time in hospital and reduce the time they are contagious, saying the drug had few side-effects but was not suitable for pregnant women. It was particularly effective, he said, for patients suffering from mild or mid-level symptoms.

[..] Avifavir, known generically as favipiravir, was first developed in the late 1990s by a Japanese company later bought by Fujifilm as it moved into healthcare. The drug works by short-circuiting the reproduction mechanism of certain RNA viruses such as influenza. Russian specialists modified the generic drug to enhance its efficacy for treating COVID-19 [..]

Read more …

Excess deaths may be the best, if not only, way to get an accurate fatality number for COVID19.

UK Has One Of Highest COVID19-Related Excess Deaths Levels In Europe (G.)

Britain’s excess death toll at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic was the highest among 11 countries analysed by the Guardian. The UK had the biggest spike among countries including Sweden, France, Germany and Spain. At its peak the UK death toll was more than double that of an average week, at 109%, compared with Spain’s peak in week 14 where the death toll was double the average at 100%. By week 20 of 2020 the UK death toll – inclusive of both Covid-related and non-Covid deaths – was 21% higher than the average of recent years meaning, for every five deaths that occur in the UK in a normal year, six people have died this year to date.

Excess deaths are those above what we might expect to see in normal circumstances. The figure is the difference in the number of people who have died in a given week compared with the average number of deaths that occurred in the same period in the previous five years. Italy and the Netherlands also have excess deaths of 10% or more so far this year according to the latest data, although the data for those countries is not as up to date as that for the UK. Patterns in the data show countries that locked down earlier tended to have fewer deaths. Austria, which imposed strict containment measures on 16 March, when there was just one death attributed to Covid-19 in the country, recorded a peak in excess deaths of 14%.


By contrast, the Netherlands waited until its excess deaths were already 17% higher than usual before locking down, and at its peak the death toll was 74% above average. The data also shows that in Sweden, which has adopted a different approach with no lockdown in place, excess deaths peaked at 46%. The figures come from mortality statistics gathered by the Guardian. Not all of the deaths are directly attributable to Covid-19 but the figures indicate how many people have died directly and indirectly as a result of the virus in different countries.

Read more …

That cat’s out of the bag. Too late.

Health Officials Make Last-Minute Plea To Stop Lockdown Easing In England (G.)

Senior public health officials have made a last-minute plea for ministers to scrap Monday’s easing of the coronavirus lockdown in England, warning the country is unprepared to deal with any surge in infection and that public resolve to take steps to limit transmisson has been eroded. The Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) said new rules, including allowing groups of up to six people to meet outdoors and in private gardens, were “not supported by the science” and that pictures of crowded beaches and beauty spots over the weekend showed “the public is not keeping to social distancing as it was”.

On Saturday and Sunday, parks and seafronts were packed as people anticipated the lifting of restrictions on what has been dubbed “happy Monday”. Car showrooms and outdoor markets will also be reopened, millions of children will return to primary schools and the most vulnerable “shielded” people will be allowed out for the first time since lockdown began in March, all as long as physical distancing is maintained. But Jeanelle de Gruchy, president of the ADPH, said her colleagues across England were “increasingly concerned that the government is misjudging the balance of risk between more social interaction and the risk of a resurgence of the virus, and is easing too many restrictions too quickly”.


They have called on ministers to postpone the easing of restrictions until more is known about the infection rate, the test-and-trace system is better established and public resolve to maintain physical distancing and hygiene can be reinforced. “We have not spoken out in this way before,” De Gruchy said, “but we are concerned that if there is a spike it will be in our communities. We need to be confident we can get on top of it, and we are not confident yet.”

Read more …

Awful headline for a reasonable piece.

It’s The Virus, Stupid! (AHEB)

Many economists expressed disbelief after glancing at recent economic statistics. Since the arrival of the virus and the subsequent lockdowns we have observed a never-before-seen decline in production and consumption. In the UK alone, millions of jobs are at risk immediately. The IMF estimated that, for the UK, the expected economic growth this year will turn into a contraction of 6.5%. It was only the day after the presentation of this forecast when Kristalina Georgieva, the director of the IMF, said that the predictions had been overly positive. Globally, it is predicted that many hundreds of millions of people will fall back below the poverty line. The bad news just doesn’t seem to stop. And what for? To keep a virus in check.

A virus that will cause more death than a serious flu, but that does much less damage to health compared to other diseases like cancer or cardiovascular disease. Assuming an infection mortality risk of 1%, group immunity at 70% and 10 years of life lost per death, we arrive at an average loss of life expectancy of one month for the average UK person. This is in sharp contrast to, for example, the 2 to 3 years with which cancer shortens the life of the average UK person. Some economists read these numbers and conclude that the lockdown has to end immediately. That is understandable at first. The costs per year of life saved are higher than we are willing to spend on regular care. The difference is at least a factor 2, and probably much more. If we weren’t prepared to make such sacrifices for an extra year of life before, why now?


The comparison is flawed. While we can lift the lockdown, we cannot return to normality. If we assume 25% of the UK population is at risk, then 17 million people belong to one of the risk groups. For them, the virus is usually not fatal, but not safe either. Many of these people are likely to adopt a risk-averse position. The risks for the rest of the population are limited. However, they too will likely be cautious, as almost all of them are in direct contact with people from the risk groups. This raises the question to what extent the economic damage is caused by the lockdown or by the virus itself. The way to find out is to lift the lockdown in some regions and continue in others. Obviously, such an experiment will not be allowed because of the ethical aspects.

Read more …

We import oil and rich people.

Australia’s Stalled Migrant Boom Derails Golden Economic Run (R.)

Australia’s three decades of uninterrupted prosperity are coming to an abrupt end as the global coronavirus pandemic crashes one of its most lucrative sources of income – immigration. The country has been successful in managing the outbreak and reopening its A$2 trillion ($1.33 trillion) economy, thanks in part to an early closure of its borders. But the policy has led to a halt in mass immigration – a key source of consumer demand, labour and growth – in an economy which is facing its first recession since the early 1990s. Net immigration, including international students and those on skilled worker visas, is expected to fall 85% in the fiscal year to June 2021, curbing demand for everything from cars and property to education and wedding rings.


Gurmeet Tuli, who owns a jewellery store in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta, said his business is already hurting in a neighbourhood which is home to tens of thousands of migrants. “My main clientele is young people who come here to study, they find work here and settle down, fall in love and want to get married,” Tuli said. “I have not sold a single diamond ring in the past two months,” he added, noting business is down about 40% so far this year. So critical is migration to Australia that analysts reckon the economy would have slipped into a recession last year without new arrivals to boost population growth.

Read more …

That’s not terribly interesting…

Asia Stocks Hit 3-Month Peaks, Resilient To US Rioting (R.)

Asian shares pushed to three-month highs on Monday as progress on opening up economies helped offset jitters over riots in U.S. cities and unease over Washington’s power struggle with Beijing. There was also relief that while President Donald Trump began the process of ending special U.S. treatment for Hong Kong to punish China, he left their trade deal intact. “With specific and verifiable measures against China appearing to be weak, markets may draw hollow consolation that the U.S. is treading carefully,” said analysts at Mizuho in a note.

After a cautious start Asian markets were led higher by China on signs parts of the domestic economy were picking up. Hong Kong .HSI managed to rally 3.6%, while Chinese blue chips put on 2.4%. An official business survey from China showed its factory activity grew at a slower pace in May but momentum in the services and construction sectors quickened. A private survey showed a return to growth in May, though exports remained depressed. That helped lift MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan 2.1% to its highest since early March. Japan’s Nikkei added 0.7% to also reach a three-month peak.


[..] The resilience was notable given major U.S. cities were cleaning up streets strewn with broken glass and burned out cars as curfews failed to stop confrontations between activists and law enforcement. The turmoil was a fresh setback for the economy which was only just emerging from a downturn akin to the Great Depression. Following poor data on spending and trade out on Friday, the Atlanta Federal Reserve estimated economic output could drop a staggering 51% annualised in the second quarter. The May jobs report due out on Friday is forecast to show the unemployment rate surged to 19.8%, smashing April’s record 14.7%. Payrolls are expected to drop by 7.4 million, on top of the 20.5 million jobs lost the previous month.

Read more …

… this is far more interesting. Why are stocks “resilient” and hitting peaks as economies plunge?

Asia’s Factory Pain Worsens As China’s Recovery Fails To Lift Demand (R.)

Asia’s factory pain deepened in May as the slump in global trade caused by the coronavirus pandemic worsened, with export powerhouses Japan and South Korea suffering the sharpest declines in business activity in more than a decade. A series of manufacturing surveys released on Monday suggest any rebound in businesses will be some time off, even though China’s factory activity unexpectedly returned to growth in May. China’s Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) hit 50.7 last month, marking the highest reading since January as easing of lockdowns allowed companies to get back to work and clear outstanding orders.


But with many of China’s trading partners still restricted, its new export orders remained in contraction, the private business survey showed on Monday. China’s official PMI survey on Sunday showed the recovery in the world’s second-largest economy intact but fragile. Japan’s factory activity shrank at the fastest pace since 2009 in May, a separate private sector survey showed while South Korea also saw manufacturing slump at the sharpest pace in more than a decade. [..] Taiwan’s manufacturing activity also fell in May. Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines saw PMIs rebound from April, though the indices all remained below the 50-mark threshold that separates contraction from expansion. Official data on Monday showed South Korea extending its exports plunge for a third straight month.

Read more …

Japan’s policy for years now hs been to force people to spend. The more -and longer- you do that, the more afraid they get and the less they spend.

Also, as mentioned 1000 times, talking about inflation means zilch unless velocity of money is included. The Deutsche bank graph down below gives that point a lot more perspective.

The Stunning Chart That Blows Up All Of Modern Central Banking (ZH)

[..] amusingly it was all the way back in 2015 that we predicted – correctly in retrospect – just what the monetary endgame is: “fear not: when even “moar” QE and NIRP do not work, and the economists of the ECB admit the “monetary twilight zone” was a disaster, there is one last “tool” they can and will use – helicopters. Because when it comes to printing money, whether in digital reserve format, or physical paper format, there is literally no limit how much can and will be created to achieve what is the endgame of the current monetary dead end: the total destruction of fiat as a store of wealth in order to preserve the global equity tranche while wiping away a few hundred trillion in debt.”


Thanks to covid-19, we have now moved beyond merely the “twilight” and are now in the “helicopter” zone. But what about the relationship between rates and savings, and by extension inflation? After all that is the topic of this post. Well, we can now confirm that our intuition from 2015 that negative rates are not only not inflationary but outright deflationary, and encourage consumers to save even more, was correct all along. Below we post a chart from the latest Research Investment Committee report by BofA titled “Stagnation, stagflation or elevation”, which with just one image blows up everything that is flawed with monetary policy. It shows that while lower rates indeed stimulate spending and lead to lower savings, this effect peaks at around 4% and then goes negative. In fact, the lower yields – and rates – drop below 4% – not to mention to 0% or below – the lower the propensity to spend and the higher the savings rate!

There is another reason why this chart of such epic importance: it confirms what so many have known but were afraid to voice as it ran against decades of flawed economic theory: it demonstrates without a shadow of doubt, that hyper-easy monetary policy is not inflationary but is deflationary. Which is catastrophic for central banks, who publicly state that the only reason they are pursuing ultra easy monetary policy which includes QE and negative rates, is not to goose the market higher (even though by now we all know that’s the real reason) but to stimulate inflation. This is how Bank of America summarizes this stunning observation: As low growth & inflation make low-risk-asset income scarce (e.g. from government bonds), households are forced to reduce consumption and increase savings in order to meet retirement goals. Forced saving further depresses demand in a vicious cycle.


This means that the lower (and more negative) central banks push rates, the lower (not higher) the spending, the higher (not lower) the savings rate, the lower the inflation, the higher the disinflation (or outright deflation), which in turn forces central banks to cut rates even more, to add QE, yield curve control, buy junk bonds, buy ETFs, or pursue any of a host of other monetary policies that are even more devastating to consumer psychology, forcing even more savings, resulting in even more disinflation, causing even more intervention by central banks in what is without doubt the most diabolical feedback loop of modern monetary policy and economics. Said otherwise, monetary easing is deflationary. Let that sink in.

Read more …

Not entirely sure what this is. The DOJ supposedly tells the FBI’s top lawyer to leave. And there’s no protest, he just does.

Impossible to see this as something wholly separate from the entire developing issue, for which Susan Rice is an appropriate symbol.

FBI’s Top Lawyer Resigns As Agency Faces Pressure From Trump (R.)

The FBI said on Saturday that its top lawyer, Dana Boente, had announced his resignation as the agency faces scrutiny over its investigations of former staffers and supporters of President Donald Trump. As a senior Justice Department official, Boente was involved in the investigation of Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The Justice Department has since asked a judge to drop those charges, arguing that prosecutors should not have brought them in the first place. Trump has repeatedly criticized the FBI for investigating Flynn and other allies.


NBC News, citing two sources, said Boente was asked to resign. Boente held several senior roles at the Justice Department and the FBI over the course of a 38-year career. He briefly served as acting Attorney General in 2017 after Trump fired Sally Yates, who held the job during the first weeks of his presidency. “Few people have served so well in so many critical, high-level roles at the Department,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a prepared statement.

Read more …

 

 

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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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