Coronavirus: So far so good, but…

Editorial

Coronavirus: So far so good, but…

Sunday, February 23, 2020

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Fortunately , with much credit to the People's Republic of China and the pro-activeness of many other countries, including Jamaica, the coronavirus has not spread to the extent that it could have.

Although it has not become a global pandemic, the coronavirus tragedy is by no means over. Significantly, it has done great damage to the economy of China, the world's fastest growing economy over the last 30 years, and to a lesser but growing extent the world economy.

Global pandemics have been very costly in the past. In 2018, the World Bank estimated that the annual global cost of “moderately severe to severe pandemics” was approximately US$570 billion, or 0.7 per cent of global income.

The World Bank also estimates that a global pandemic could cost damage of $3 trillion and put the world economy into recession.

Given that the world is so highly and comprehensively integrated, the probability of the spread of a virus to pandemic proportions has increased. Paradoxically, while the chances of spreading are greater, so is the capacity of modern medicine to control and treat the international transmission of a virus.

However, each new virus is a new event and in some respects unique. It has been just over 100 years since the deadliest epidemic in history the 1918 Spanish Influenza outbreak which killed an estimated 50 million people.

In recent years, there have been outbreaks such as SARS, swine flu, MERS, Ebola, Zika, yellow fever, Lassa fever and cholera. The World Health Organization receives 300 disease warnings per year, of which 30 warrant more in-depth field investigation to evaluate the potential to become epidemics.

Notably, at least 14,000 people have died and 250,000 hospitalised during the 2019-2020 flu season in America, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 26 million Americans have fallen ill with flu-like symptoms.

In China, the control measures against the coronavirus have slowed the economy. Symptomatic of this is that auto sales have plummeted by 92 per cent. Companies and countries all over the world that depend on suppliers in China have been discombobulated.

The impact on the global economy is evident in the effect on commodity prices, including oil, and in the stock markets which reflect the uncertainty. The international airlines industry could lose US$29 billion, mainly in Asia.

In each adverse situation there are opportunities, in this case, alternative suppliers can replace Chinese producers and some local suppliers can be resuscitated. Furthermore, the world is not going to sit still and those countries which are free of the virus will benefit, including tourist destinations.

The Caribbean has done a good job, and no traveller whether business or tourist need fear travelling to the Caribbean because of the coronavirus. The national health authorities are to be congratulated, as well as the Caribbean Public Health Agency.

Each and every citizen has a responsibility to take every possible precaution. We are our brother's keeper in this regard. This certainly is no time to be complacent. Governments in the Caribbean must keep up all the necessary precautions.

We can't stress enough that it is not yet over.


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