The coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan will peak in mid- to late-February, according to a study by scientists affiliated with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The non-peer-reviewed findings were posted Friday on repository hosting service Github.
Meanwhile the world’s coronavirus patient count rose to over 43,000 with the death toll now breaching the 1,000 mark, as of Tuesday afternoon. The death toll from the coronavirus in China (971) now exceeds that of the SARS epidemic globally in 2003, which resulted in 774 deaths worldwide.
A drop in the number of new infections in China on Monday has given some hope this marks a turning point, but World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday there had been “concerning instances” of transmission from people who had not been to China. In particular new cases in France and the UK.
“The detection of this small number of cases could be the spark that becomes a bigger fire, but for now it’s only a spark,” Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva. “Our objective remains containment,” he said. “We call on all countries to use the window of opportunity we have to prevent a bigger fire.”
An advance team of international WHO experts arrived in China to investigate the outbreak.
Since the coronavirus epidemic began in December, China’s entire economy has increasingly slowed as businesses from all sectors suspended operations, first in the lead-up to the Lunar New Year and then because of the virus, turning bustling metropolises into virtual ghost towns.
Now after the government extended the holiday by more than a week much of the country is set to go back to work. A special central government group tasked with tackling the crisis has said that businesses outside the worst-hit province of Hubei should resume work in an “orderly” fashion.
While emphasising the need for “scientific control” of the outbreak, this is the first time it has called for the country to return to work since its formation in late January.
Businesses in the UK and US say they they are losing revenue as disruption to their operations and added compliance costs as a result of China’s coronavirus outbreak, according to surveys by business groups.
More than half of 126 British companies surveyed by the Beijing-based British Chamber of Commerce in China said the outbreak had a significant negative impact on their business, while 97 per cent had been adversely affected in some way.
A survey of 127 companies by AmCham Shanghai released Friday found that 87 per cent believe the coronavirus will have a direct impact on 2020 revenues with 24 per cent expecting revenues to fall by 16 per cent or more. And 16 per cent of respondents expect China’s 2020 GDP to fall by more than 2.0 per cent as a result of the coronavirus.
China’s smartphone shipments are likely to suffer a year-on-year drop of more than 30 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 due to the coronavirus, according to research firm IDC.
And Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, Apple’s main iPhone production partner says it is coordinating with authorities in carrying out virus protection and are preparing safety measures with the approval of local governments.
The company has won approval to resume production in the eastern central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, but only 10 per cent of the workforce managed to return, Reuters reports a source as saying. Foxconn also won approval to resume partial production in the southern city of Shenzhen from Tuesday.
China’s logistics network continues to play a key role in supporting the medical response. As the demand for medical supplies has far outstripped the supply across China, logistics networks have become crucial to nationwide response. Many of China’s unicorn companies, responsible for the creation of China’s impressive e-commerce logistics system, have stepped up to support various emergency initiatives.
Pinduoduo, an e-commerce disruptor who pioneered a social group buying model in China, has delivered more than 130 tonnes of fresh produce to hospitals in Hubei province as of 2 February.
The shipment represents a month’s supply of fresh produce for the 5,000 medical staff at four hospitals. To further secure food supplies, Pinduoduo is working with China Post and SF Express to open ‘green’ channels from agricultural production areas to reach a total of 12 cities and 27 counties in the province.
As of 3 February, Pinduoduo has donated over one million medical masks, 200,000 medical gloves and 30 tonnes of disinfectant to Hubei Province. These aid supplies successfully reached the cities of Wuhan, Huanggang, Xiaogan, Tianmen and their neighboring areas.
The company has also provided 600 million yuan in subsidies for disease-prevention necessities, including medical masks, disinfectant, thermometers and anti-viral medicines, subsidised more than 80 million orders in total as of 1 February.
With its assistance focused largely on the outbreak epicentre of Wuhan, delivery giant JD Logistics has transported more than 140 tonnes of prevention materials to Wuhan via rail. As of 30 January the company had received requests by 450 institutions for delivery of material donations to support Wuhan.
According to the company on 2 February, it had delivered 2.36 million medical and epidemic prevention supplies, including masks, medical gloves, goggles, and disinfectants to major hospitals in Wuhan, and the surrounding area of Hubei Province.
The company has begun to concentrate their robot inventory in Wuhan, to allow for fully automated delivery within the virus-stricken city. To avoid human-to-human contact, JD’s robots will ensure the continued access to essentials during a city-wide quarantine.
Alibaba established a coronavirus relief fund worth CNY 1.0 billion (USD 143.4 million), to be used for purchasing and aggregating medical items for emergency response both from China and abroad.
Cainiao, Alibaba’s logistics unit, has launched a ‘Green Channel’ initiative with industry partners in China that has delivered over five million pieces of medical supplies to Wuhan and neighbouring cities in Hubei province.
As of 3 February, Alibaba had delivered medical supplies from 15 countries and regions, including self-purchased and donated goods, to 18 hospitals in Hubei, Zhejiang and Anhui provinces. Cainiao worked with customs authorities to speed clearance at airports and ports, cutting the overall shipment time for vital emergency relief.
With the help of donors, Alibaba managed to contribute 500,000 medical gloves, 40,000 sets of protective clothing, 20,000 goggles, 7,000 cases of disinfectant fluids, 30 tonnes of intravenous drips and over 40 tonnes of food to Hubei province.