UPDATE Jan. 30th, 2020: You can view my latest daily update here.
The World Health Organization (WHO) held a press conference on the growing crisis today.
“The whole world needs to be on alert now,” Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said during a news conference in Geneva. “The whole world needs to take action.”
Dr. Ryan and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, spoke publicly for the first time after returning from Beijing earlier this week, where they were meeting with Chinese health officials about the situation in China.
And the World Health Organization’s emergency committee is meeting again on Thursday, January 30th, where infectious disease experts from around the world will determine whether to officially declare the Wuhan coronavirus situation a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC for short). The Evening Standard reports:
Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director at the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said the decision to reconvene was due to the increasing number of cases and evidence of person-to-person transmission of the virus.
Dr. Ryan said multiple countries implementing measures at different times based on their individual risk assessments was a “potential recipe for disaster, at least politically, economically and socially”.
The WHO said person-to-person transmission had been confirmed in three countries outside China – Japan, Vietnam and Germany.
The official WHO declaration of a PHEIC will help manage global, coordinated efforts between countries to stem the spread of 2019-nCoV.
Forbes published an infographic on January 27th that answers the question: which countries are best and worst prepared to deal with an epidemic? The article explains:
Last October, the Global Health Security Index was released, exploring that very issue. It was the first comprehensive assessment of global health security capabilities in 195 countries. The index analyzed preparation levels by focusing on whether countries have the proper tools in place to deal with large scale outbreaks of disease, with scores measured on a scale of 0 to 100 where 100 is the highest level of preparedness.
As you can see, most of Africa is ill-prepared to deal with a potential pandemic. If cases of 2019-nCoV begin to pop up here, it will be very difficult to contain human-to-human transmission in these countries.
What Happens Next?
All travel, including tourism, will be severely impacted. Many airlines around the world announced today that they were suspending flights into and out of mainland China, and we can expect that trend to continue as other outbreaks of 2019-nCoV occur. Many countries have now advised their citizens to avoid all travel to China. Expect global travel tourism to go into a free fall; nobody wants to be trapped away from home during a global health crisis. This is going to be a very difficult time for the travel industry as a whole.
The growing health emergency will trigger a global recession. The current situation in China will have a direct impact on the production of goods in that country, including the manufacture of ingredients used in many medicines, as STAT News reports. Many corporations have announced that they are shutting down their Chinese locations and asking their employees to curtail travel to/from and within China, and work from their homes. You can expect to see growing disruptions in product deliveries to stores, and potential shortages of products that come from Chinese factories: everything from clothing to electronics.
Anxiety, fear and panic will begin to take hold. People can react irrationally during times of stress. Unfortunately, social media has already become a breeding ground for wildly unfounded conspiracy theories. We have already seen incidents of anti-Chinese racism occur in Canada. Again, the best response is to remain calm, cultivate resilience, and be a discriminating information consumer. Double check and verify any news you hear via social media channels before you accept it as fact. Don’t panic, but prepare.
What is the Best Way to Prepare?
Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. And the worst thing that could happen is that you will be asked to stay in your homes for a period of several weeks, limiting your outside contact with other people, as a wave of illness caused by the Wuhan coronavirus sweeps through your community, forcing schools and workplaces to close.
That means that you need to prepare by stocking up on food and other supplies to last you at least two or three weeks. The time to go shopping is NOW. Start by reviewing the Personal Health Preparedness lists provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.
Second, inform yourself. Learn as much as you can about the virus and the illness it causes. Dr. Roger Seheult is posting short videos to his YouTube channel, explaining the medical concepts behind the Wuhan coronavirus in an easy-to-understand way. Here is a sample from today:
Good Sources of Information on 2019-nCoV
Here is my updated list of good, authoritative resources to learn more about the Wuhan coronoavirus (more formally known as 2019-nCoV):
- the United Nations World Health Organization
- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (this is a new, much more comprehensive website)
- Personal Health Preparedness information from the U.S. CDC
- Health Canada, including an FAQ and a fact sheet
- Public Health Canada
- Information for the public from the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England (U.K.)
Sources of Fast-Breaking News on 2019-nCoV (WARNING: News You Read Here May Not Be 100% Credible!)
PLEASE READ: In addition to the sources listed in the previous section, there are other places you can check, which might have reports (including translated links to local social media in China) that have not yet made the mainstream news media. Please keep in mind that the situation in China is chaotic, and that some of the information you find in the sources I list below might be gossip, rumours, hoaxes, misinformation, or disinformation! If you are already feeling anxious, I would recommend you avoid these sources, but if, like me, you want to get a fuller picture of what’s going on, then I provide the links below.
- The FluTrackers.com discussion forum
- The China_Flu subReddit and wiki with FAQ
- The Intelliwatch Discord server (invite link) is a geopolitical events and crises discussion forum that has two channels devoted to 2019-nCoV/Wuhan coronavirus news and speculation.
- The Corona Virus (2019-nCoV) Discord server (invite link)