Well, I did notice that for the last 2 or 3 weeks my posts have been mainly about health concerns. Might as well bring up again the bugaboo in the room, which has taken 1,491 lives at this writing -- the thing we're learning to call COVID-19. Nearly everyone it's killed so far have been Chinese people living in China, and among those it's killed is a very good friend of my ex-wife. I knew this woman quite well during my three years in China, back in the 80's: a warm and humorous soul. About ten years ago she visited the U.S., and my ex invited me over to her place when this woman visited her; we had a nice time; the woman and I exchanged gifts. Now I guess she has given me the gift of a greater empathy -- with the relatives and friends of all those who have died and will die, with all the lives these unfortunate people touched.
An ongoing human disaster on the verge of going global, caused by a few Wuhanites hankering for a taste of pangolin? Something like this appears to be the case.
Would be much obliged to the authorities in the Philippines if their efforts to keep the virus from spreading here pay off. The official death toll in the country stands at three, all Chinese nationals who were visiting the Philippines. As of yesterday, 252 suspected cases in the country had tested negative for the coronavirus; the results for 186 others are still pending. Forty-nine overseas Filipino workers living in Wuhan have been repatriated, and along with the flight crew are being held in quarantine at Clark in buildings that housed athletes of last year's Southeast Asian Games. (News arrived today that Vietnam is quarantining more than 10,000). Air travel between China and the PI was shut down some days ago; more recently Taiwan has come under the same stricture.
The transmission rate of the disease is in the process of being revised upward. Recent estimates have placed COVID-19's Ro between 2 and 4 (the Ro value is simply the number of people to whom one infected person transmits the disease, on average). But a study by Los Alamos National Laboratory now puts that value between 4.7 and 6.6.: these numbers have new cases of the virus doubling every two or three days. Can the virus be contained? Despite the stringent measures being taken both inside and outside of China, this highly transmissible cat already seems out of the bag. Most Southeast Asian nations have official cases in the double digits, and the number of official cases tends to be lower, sometimes a good deal lower, than the number of cases actually out there.
The number of fatalities is approaching double the number killed in the 2003 SARS epidemic. And the SARS outbreak lasted four full months; we are not yet two months into COVID-19.
That is the dreary picture I have for you today from this quarter, reader. One likes to think this is really not as bad as it seems to be. Carry on, hope for the best! Yup, it's Valentine's Day and I'm off to find a good box of chocolates for Jheng.