The Corona Virus (COVID-19) threatens to become a global pandemic with the diagnosed toll rising to 89,773 people across 60 countries and more than 3000 reported deaths. The virus emerged late last year in China and the country continues to report the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths – 80,026 cases and 2,912 reported deaths as of 2ndMarch 2020. Iran has reported 1,501 confirmed cases and 54 deaths from the virus – the most after China while Italy is the centre of the outbreak in Europe reporting 1,694 confirmed cases and 34 deaths.
The number of cases continues to rise as Indonesia, which had been unaffected so far, reported 2 cases and more cases were confirmed in the US, Australia and France. While spread of the virus slows in China with the country reporting its lowest daily toll, the outbreak has picked up speed in South Korea (reporting 500 cases), the US and across Europe leaving the nations scrambling to contain the virus.
Several cases identified and diagnosed in countries around the world have reported recent travel from highly affected countries. Cases identified in Pakistan and Australia have been reported to have travelled from Iran while an Italian tested positive in Jaipur, India. USA reported a mix of cases – some had travelled while the others had contracted the virus domestically. Authorities in all countries have sought to quarantine those affected and are also busy tracking those who might have been in contact with the affected persons. Schools have been closed and sick employees have been encouraged to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus.
With uncertainty looming in the air regarding the affectees, the cure to the virus and widespread panic, economic activity has also taken a hit. The closure of China’s ports has disrupted the world’s supply chain as China had been performing as the “world’s factory”. Volatility is high in financial markets across the world with the markets reporting the worst performance last week since the financial crisis of 2008. According to Oxford Economics’ report, a pandemic lasting six months could knock $1.1 trillion off the expected growth of the global GDP. With travel bans and closing of borders, the global airline industry is estimated to lose $29 billion this year according to the International Air Transportation Association (IATA).
Governments and authorities around the world are dreading the spread of the pandemic, but it’s not because of the number of fatalities reported – reported deaths are 2-3% of the affectees, lesser than deaths resulting from existing, more threatening viruses. What is alarming is that the corona virus currently has no cure. While the WHO works on developing vaccines and testing them, the countries have no way to prevent the spread of the virus or curing them. The virus can be mistaken for the common flu as its main symptoms are flu like - high fever, coughing and sneezing. However, we are yet to develop immunity to it.
As the world continues to take steps to understand and prevent the spread of the virus, disease modelers are busy predicting the future of the virus. Working with reported data of the cases, time taken to infect other people, time taken for the infected to show symptoms and the pace of the outbreak from the epicentre, modelers are trying to zero in on future predictions of confirmed cases and the time the virus will take to subside around the world.