Jason Palmer, Slavea Chankova, and Davie Rennie Discuss China’s Coronavirus Response on The Intelligence Podcast; Should We Trust the Process?

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Key Takeaways

  • The death toll from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) just surpassed 900 people, making it more deadly than 2002-2003 SARS epidemic  
  • When will a widespread and widely available coronavirus vaccine be ready?
    • “With luck, we’re probably looking at something along the lines of a year” Slavea Chankova
  • The best-case coronavirus scenario: China is able to contain the outbreak, and the one-off cases in other countries are also contained
    • On the other hand, it’s possible that this virus isn’t containable, and it becomes like the seasonal flu

Intro

  • Davie Rennie (@DSORennie) is the Beijing bureau chief at ‘The Economist’
  • Slavea Chankova (@SlaveaChankova) is the healthcare correspondent for ‘The Economist’
  • Host – Jason Palmer (@djasonpalmer)

An Update on The Coronavirus

  • The death toll from the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) just surpassed 900 people, making it more deadly than 2002-2003 SARS epidemic
  • Although the Lunar New Year holiday is over, many businesses in China remain shuttered; the streets are largely empty
    • In big cities, workers are encouraged to work from home
  • China is building more hospitals in/near affected areas
  • China is using loudspeakers located in trees and on lamp posts to continuously blast coronavirus-advice

The Death of Coronavirus Whistleblower Li Wenliang

  • ~12 doctors reported the coronavirus early on, one of them being Li Wenliang
    • Li was punished by the police for doing so and was forced to sign a humiliating letter saying he had made the whole thing up
  • Li, unfortunately, ended up contracting the coronavirus himself and recently passed away
    • Millions of Chinese now view him as a hero while resenting their government—many believe Li, and dozens of others, died from the virus because China lacks freedom of speech and punishes those who speak out
      • “Millions of ordinary Chinese—who almost never express political opinions—have begun expressing explicitly political opinions about the reasons that this heroic doctor died, blaming China’s lack of free speech” – Davie Rennie
  • Is this crisis the start of political protests and backlash?
    • Probably not—people are afraid to go outside in fear of contracting the virus
      • “People are scared to go out, people are scared of crowds” – Davie Rennie  

The World Health Organization Steps In

  • China has begun using the threat of quarantine to discourage journalists from talking to people in Wuhan:
    • They give journalists two options: Spend 14 days in quarantine or go to Beijing 
  • The big question: Are China’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus is actually working?
  • Many people in China with the coronavirus refuse to go to a hospital (they don’t trust that the hospitals have the right medicine and test kits)
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) recently deemed the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern; they’re currently planning a meeting with 400 experts to lay out a coordinated international response plan

Possible Outcomes

  • As of writing, the coronavirus has spread to 28 countries
  • What’s needed to combat the virus?
    • More reliable tests
    • Dependable treatments
    • A vaccine
  • The best-case scenario: China is able to contain the outbreak, and the one-off cases in other countries are also contained
    • On the other hand, it’s possible that this virus isn’t containable, and it becomes like the seasonal flu

Coronavirus Vaccine Progress

  • According to Slavea, the progress of a vaccine is “looking quite good.” With modern technology, it’s possible to make a vaccine faster than ever before.
    • When Chinese researchers published the virus’ genomic sequence, researchers from around the world used that information to start working on a vaccine 
  • When will a widespread and widely available coronavirus vaccine be ready?
    • “With luck, we’re probably looking at something along the lines of a year” Slavea Chankova
      • This may sound like a long time, but safety/efficacy testing is necessary, along with clinical trials, all lengthening the timeline

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