The Wuhan Coronavirus - Three day doubling

Today, I wanted to get on with some creative writing. My confidence was boosted because last week, I received a writing prize, which is always nice! :-) Unfortunately, I'm finding it very difficult to think about anything other than the Wuhan coronavirus. I've written a blog post on this subject at least once a day for nearly a week now. I've had to do this partly because there is a lot to talk about, concerning the virus, and partly because it's developing so fast. As far as I can tell, based on the data so far, numbers of the infected are doubling every three days. It's very difficult to calculate an exact figure, because the numbers coming out of China are likely to be inaccurate as their health services are overwhelmed. For example, a Hong Kong University Study on the 2nd February estimated that 75,000 people had been infected, rather than China's official figure of 14,000. I think the doubling period seems to be about every three days. Here is the latest John Hopkins real-time update:


A doubling of the infected every three days is extremely scary. This is not just the case in China. Outside of China, in the last few days, countries that had a few infected now have ten or twenty infected, matching this reproduction rate. What's more, in Hubei province, where the virus has existed for weeks, the recovery rate is roughly the same as the death rate. There is also the chilling possibility, described in my earlier post, that the virus is like HIV in the sense that it doesn't leave your body after you're infected.

If the numbers of infected do double every three days, then the virus would take a month to reach a thousand cases. Since the virus began in early December (as far as we know), then it would have reached that total in early January. This is roughly what we've seen. Two months after the outbreak began, at the beginning of February, as in today, the number of infected should have reached a million cases. The figure estimated by the Hong Kong research team, of 75,000, mentioned earlier, would match this rate of increase approximately ten days ago. These numbers are way above the current, official total for China. This is not surprising. Many reports coming out of China indicate that the health services in Hubei were overwhelmed in late January, when the 3-day-doubling would have reached 32,000. Understandably, from that point, accurate recording of infections would have gone out of the window. I think it's therefore possible that a million people in China are currently infected.

China's situation is very bad but we now need to think about the global situation. The amount of air travel that takes place around our planet means that this disease would never have stayed in China. Here is an example of how quickly the virus spreads internationally, in this video report:

To summarise, a Malaysian man went to a conference in Singapore on January 16th, which a Wuhan delegate was attending. The Malaysian man returned home on the 23rd and attended New year celebrations. He developed a cough and a fever on the 29th Jan and was tested positive for the virus on the 3rd February. In other words, from the moment he caught the virus, probably from the Wuhan delegate, he walked around Singapore, travelled back to Malaysia, probably on a busy flight, attended New Year celebrations and then visited several clinics and one hospital, all before he was identified as a carrier. With this virus, according to reports, people are infectious for up to a fortnight before developing symptoms, and so the number of people the man infected, before he was even identified as a carrier, is likely to be in double figures.

Not surprisingly, based on such an example, we are seeing three-day-doubling in countries or regions around China (Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea). The numbers of infected will keep increasing worldwide, as there has been no containment. If we follow the three-day-doubling estimate, which is reasonable in the circumstances, then the numbers of people infected, worldwide, by the beginning of March, will reach one billion. This total is hard to believe. It seems an absurd number but everything that has happened so far backs up this result. China is not a medieval country. Yes, they do have poverty and some places have poor sanitation but they also have cutting-edge medicine. They have citizens who follow health measures and twenty-first century infrastructure. The spread of the disease in China is not because the Chinese people are backward, or communist; it's because the disease is a monster. The UK, Europe, America and other developed countries are unlikely to fare any better once the disease has got a foothold.

I think we all need to prepare, as rapidly as possible, for a global human catastrophe.