The Wuhan Coronavirus - On the frontline

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Much of our media attention, particularly here in the West, is now on the international spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. Our preparations to deal with this plague are still woeful, particularly here in the UK. For example, our Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, advised that, 'Britons returning from China will not be quarantined and should instead remain at home and call medics if they experience symptoms.' This advice is both ridiculous and criminally incompetent, considering the infectiousness of the Wuhan coronavirus and its death rate. Hancock's advice means that anyone returning from China, whose number of infected are estimated by international studies to be ten times the official values, simply have to monitor themselves and phone the doctor if they get symptoms.

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If people returning from China follow Mr Hancock's advice, then an infected person, whose showing no symptoms, could basically turn up at Heathrow Airport, wander around for days and, if they feel in the mood, then stay at home. Since the incubation period is up to two weeks, and that person is infectious during that time, by the time that person suffered symptoms, then went to a hospital, was tested and then found to be positive for the virus, he or she could have infected literally a hundred people.

It's become clear to me, as this virus has spread, that the Western governments, the mainstream media and the World Health Organisation have all focussed on business health, rather than the threat on human health. As far as they have all been concerned, airline travel must continue, cruise ships must keep going, etc. They are following the same mentality I noticed in the panel during the Event 201 pandemic simulation. Perhaps, when this is all over, the survivors of this plague will decide that they no longer want to live on a planet where profit margins are the most important priority.

The coronavirus has now reached what I would call Stage 2, the establishment of hotspots outside of China. As Gabriel Leung from the University of Hong Kong states, “large cities overseas with close transport links to China could also become outbreak epicentres, unless substantial public health interventions at both the population and personal levels are implemented immediately.” Here is the latest update from the John Hopkins live page on the disease:

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The infections total for Japan has doubled in the last twenty-four hours, partly due to the infected cruise-ship, the Diamond Princess, moored off the port of Yokohama, near Tokyo. Cruise ships, like aeroplanes, are the worst places for an infected person to be, as large numbers of people are in close proximity, often in interior, airless environments. It's worth noting that the ten new infections have come from Japanese health officials carrying out '102 tests conducted on 273 passengers and crew', adding to the ten already discovered. The only problem is that there are 3,700 people on the ship. By the time the authorities test everyone, the disease could have spread further. It's therefore likely, based on the rate of positive tests so far, that that single ship could contain approximately 400 infected people, more than the entire number of registered infections outside of China.

The John Hopkins data also shows that Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong are now all Stage 2 locations for the disease, as Leung warned. The coronavirus disease may spread more slowly in these countries, as their authorities are prepared for it and have good health measures, but the virus will, still, spread. The fastest spread of the virus will, most likely, occur in countries whose citizens don't have access to face masks, goggles, high-level hospital care, virus testing kits etc. This means that countries in South East Asia, Africa, the Indian sub-continent, Central America and other regions may take longer to get the virus but when it establishes itself in their cities then, unless by some blind luck it becomes less virulent, they will have chaos.

Perhaps Mr Hancock and the other senior figures who are playing down the threat of this disease might change their policies if they read about the realities of living in a city where the virus has become established? The BBC website recently released a description of life in Wuhan by a 33-year-old resident, Wenjun Wang. The article is entitled. 'Coronavirus in Wuhan: ‘We’d rather die at home than go to quarantine’. Here is a portion of the article:

Ms Wang, a 33-year-old housewife, and her family have remained in the city since it was sealed off on 23 January. Since then, the virus has infected more than 20,000 people worldwide, leading to at least 427 deaths. In a rare interview from inside Wuhan, Ms Wang has told the BBC about her family's heart-breaking struggle for survival.

"Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, my uncle has already passed away, my father is critically ill and my mum and aunt have started showing some symptoms. The CT scans shows their lungs are infected. My brother is coughing too, and has some breathing difficulties. My dad has a high fever. His temperature was 39.3C (102F) yesterday and he's constantly coughing and having breathing difficulties. We got him an oxygen machine at home and he relies on that machine twenty-four seven. He's taking both Chinese and Western medicines at the moment. There's no hospital for him to go to because his case hasn't been confirmed due to the lack of testing kits. My mum and aunt walk to the hospital every day in the hope of getting a bed for my dad despite their own health situation. But no hospital will take them."

"In Wuhan, there are many quarantine points to accommodate patients who have slight symptoms or are still in the incubation period. There are some simple and really basic facilities there. But for people who are critically ill like my father, there are no beds for them. My uncle actually died in one of the quarantine points because there are no medical facilities for people with severe symptoms. I really hope my father can get some proper treatment but no-one is in contact with us or helping us at the moment.
I got in touch with community workers several times, but the response I got was, "there's no chance of us getting a bed in the hospital"."

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"We thought the quarantine point that my dad and uncle went to was a hospital at the beginning, but it turned out to be a hotel. There was no nurse or doctor and there was no heater. They went in the afternoon and the staff there served them a cold dinner that evening. My uncle was very ill then, with severe respiratory symptoms and started losing consciousness. No doctor came to treat him. He and my dad stayed in separate rooms and when dad went to see him at 06:30 in the morning, he had already passed away. The new hospitals being built are for people who are already in other hospitals at the moment. They are going to be transferred to the new ones. But for people like us, we can't even get a bed now, let alone get one in the new hospitals."

"If we follow the government's guidelines, the only place we can go now is to those quarantine points. But if we went, what happened to my uncle would then happen to dad. So we'd rather die at home. There are many families like us around, all facing the same difficulties. My friend's father was even refused by staff at the quarantine points because he had a high fever."

"Resources are limited yet the infected population is huge. We are afraid, we don't know what will happen next. What I want to say is, if I knew they were going to lock down the city on 23 January, I would have definitely taken my whole family out, because there's no help here. If we were somewhere else, there might be hope for us. I don't know whether people like us, who listened to the government and stayed in Wuhan, made the right decision or not. But I think my uncle's death has answered that question."