Monday, February 10, 2020

China's Fatal Dilemma

Ending the limited quarantine and falsely proclaiming China safe for visitors and business travelers will only re-introduce the virus to workplaces and infect foreigners.
China faces an inescapably fatal dilemma: to save its economy from collapse, China's leadership must end the quarantines soon and declare China "safe for travel and open for business" to the rest of the world.
But since 5+ million people left Wuhan to go home for New Years, dispersing throughout China, the virus has likely spread to small cities, towns and remote villages with few if any coronavirus test kits and few medical facilities to administer the tests multiple times to confirm the diagnosis. (It can take multiple tests to confirm the diagnosis, as the first test can be positive and the second test negative.)
As a result, Chinese authorities cannot possibly know how many people already have the virus in small-town / rural China or how many asymptomatic carriers caught the virus from people who left Wuhan. They also cannot possibly know how many people with symptoms are avoiding the official dragnet by hiding at home.
No data doesn't mean no virus.
If the virus has already been dispersed throughout China by asymptomatic carriers who left Wuhan without realizing they were infected with the pathogen, then regardless of whatever official assurances may be announced in the coming days/weeks, it won't be safe for foreigners to travel in China nor will it be safe for Chinese workers to return to factories, markets, etc.
But if China doesn't "open for business" with unrestricted travel soon, its economy will suffer calamitous declines as fragile mountains of debt and leverage collapse and supply chain disruptions push global corporations to find permanent alternatives elsewhere.
Here's the fatal dilemma: maintaining the quarantine long enough to truly contain it (which requires extending it to the entire country) will be fatal to China's economy.
But ending the limited quarantine and falsely proclaiming China safe for visitors and business travelers will only re-introduce the virus to workplaces and infect foreigners who will return home as asymptomatic carriers, spreading the virus in their home nations.
Falsely declaring China safe will endanger everyone credulous enough to believe Chinese officials, and destroy whatever thin shreds of credibility China may yet have in the global economy and community. That will set off chains of causality that will destroy China's economy just as surely as a three-month nationwide quarantine.
Who will be foolish enough to believe anything Chinese officials proclaim after foreigners who accepted the false assurances of safety return home with the coronavirus?
Anyone planning to receive goods via air freight from China might want to digest this report: Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and its inactivation with biocidal agents Endemic human coronaviruses (HCoV) can persist on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days.
Air freight takes 12 to 24 hours, add another few hours for packaging, handling and last-mile delivery and that leaves 6+ days for the virus to spread to anyone who touches goods handled by an symptomatic carrier. Maybe the odds of catching the virus via surfaces are low, but maybe not. No one knows, including anyone rash enough to claim that the risk is negligible.

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