400 million locked down in China to fight coronavirus

First the latest update from Beijing:

At 04:00 on February 8th, 31 provinces (autonomous regions, municipalities) and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps reported that 2656 confirmed cases (2147 cases in Hubei) were newly added, 87 severe cases (52 cases in Hubei) were newly added, and There were 89 deaths (81 in Hubei, 2 in Henan, 1 each in Hebei, Heilongjiang, Anhui, Shandong, Hunan, and Guangxi), and 3,916 suspected new cases (2067 in Hubei).

On the same day, 600 new patients were discharged from hospital (324 in Hubei), and 31,124 close contacts were lifted from medical observation.

As of 24:00 on February 8, according to reports from 31 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, there were 33,738 confirmed cases (including 6,188 severe cases), and a total of 2,649 discharged patients were cured (Heilongjiang reduced one) A total of 811 deaths have been reported, 37,198 confirmed cases have been reported (1 in each of Shanxi, Heilongjiang, Henan, and Hainan), and there are currently 28,942 suspected cases. A total of 371,905 close contacts were traced, and 188,183 close contacts were still in medical observation.

A total of 53 confirmed cases were reported in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan: 26 in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (1 death), 10 in the Macao Special Administrative Region (1 in cured and discharged), and 17 in Taiwan (1 in cured and discharged).

And the charts:

The most important news on the weekend was that Guangzhou (13m people) and Chengdu added draconian restrictions to their populaces and Apple assembly partner, Foxconn, was forced to close for another week.

It’s become impossible to track how many Chinese are now locked down. Most of the country to one degree or another. Some are reporting 400m. That is plausible.

The upside is that the shutdown appears, for now, to have slowed the virus spread in China. That’s great news. If you believe it.

The problem is, there are very good reasons to not do so. The epicenter of the outbreak in Hubei is clearly massively worse than is being made out. The number of deaths and other marginal indicators suggests 10x worse, via Bloomie:

The new coronavirus may have infected at least 1 in 20 people in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the epicenter of the global outbreak, by the time it peaks in coming weeks, according to scientists modeling its spread.

The typically bustling megacity, where the so-called 2010-nCoV virus emerged late last year, has been in lockdown since Jan. 23, restricting the movement of 11 million people. Trends in reported cases in Wuhan so far broadly support the mathematical modeling the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is using to predict the epidemic’s transmission dynamics.

That’s half a million people infected…

That discrepancy is indicating something else very important for the political response to the virus.

What’s good for the CCP

The question is, what path is best for the CCP? Let’s not delude ourselves into thinking any other question matters, whether that of the Chinese public interest or our own. The CCP will do what best secures its power base amid one of the greatest threats to its rule since Tianenman Square.

At the moment it is caught between the need to defeat the virus and the vast ecomic damage being done by doing so. To date, it has managed this binary by lying about the severity of the virus and controlling the media narrative while deploying immense containment shutdowns. But with each passing day the economic damage makes this more difficult, right down to the basics of supplying food to 1.3bn people. It’s surely impossible for the CCP to sustain full lockdown for much longer without doing itself serious political harm.

It is probably true that the shutdown has limited the virus’ spread in wider China if not Hubei. But going back to work isn’t going to do that. And the virus is a long way from being eliminated.

This raises the prospect that, as virus containment and the economy come into greater conflict, the CCP may decide that its own best interest is served by letting the virus spread worldwide. Why? Becasue at least then it can throw its hands up and say “we did our best but this virus is beyond all human intervention”. An excuse that may wash with the Chinese people.

If so, it will allow its containment effort at home to slip while lying about it succeeding, and put a lot of pressure upon other nations to open their borders.

The good of other nations

There is a problem if that’s the way the CCP is going. Most pointedly, Chinese authorites have inadvertently illustrated how best to combat the spread of the virus.

In Hubei, where authorities hid the truth and allowed the virus to spread, the mortality rate is massively higher than elsewhere. There are many reasons for this, not least being the outbreak began earlier and it has more cases. But perhaps the most important is that, once out, the virus proved virulent enough to overwhelm its public health system. Without proper treatment, the mortality rate skyrockets.

In short, the first order response for all nations is draconian quarantining of any outbreak so that any given health system can manage the outbreak at a pace it can cope with. If you allow the virus to spread unchecked even for a few weeks then it threatens a mass casualty event as it overwhelms response capacity.

Thus any government that opens up to China too early will find itself at risk of another outbreak, with the risk of higher deaths, versus the economic need to restore connections. Getting this balance wrong will trigger politically fatal allegations of killing citizens.

But any kind of ongoing isolation of China by other nations threatens the CCP. So it will ramp up pressure to release global clamps on its economy, and governments everywhere will find themslves caught between between Scylla and Charybdis.

The mind really begins to boggle when we consider the virus will likely get loose in less developed nations. There is some hope that it will not spread as fast in warmer climates but not enough to stop it. That could throw up an endless sequence of economic shutdowns applied piecemeal across the world as different governments respond.

It also raises the greater prospect of mutations and further pandamic waves.

The upshot

There are no good outcomes. China has slowed but not contained the virus. It is very contagious and sending people back to work will bring it back on, jeoparding the CCP. Keeping them at home will jeopardise it even sooner.

The CCP is attempting to lie its way out of the conundrum. Other nations will be caught in the web. If so, nCoV will very likely spread globally, leading to a rolling shock of shutdowns all over the place.

Our base case is now a rolling shutdown in China for three-to-six months, rolling shutdown of contained outbreaks globally, with worse cases in EMs. This will hammer the global economy into recession and risk all kinds of financial contagion.

The upside risk case is no longer a SARS repeat. That hope is dead. It is that China contains the virus outside of Hubei over another few months as it incremantally opens up and stimulates wildly. This still delivers material damage to the global economy with a lighter recession held back by sporadic outbreaks of nCoV.

The downside risk case remains global pandemic and depression.

Houses and Holes
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  1. ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

    “Thus any government that opens up to China too early will find itself at risk of another outbreak, with the risk of higher deaths, versus the economic need to restore connections. Getting this balance wrong will trigger politically fatal allegations of killing citizens.”

    No doubt the LNPs PR cvnts are thinking about how easily the ALP and Peter Garrett were damaged over those 4 Insulation installers deaths.
    Those deaths were the average number one could expect to occur in this country for the volume of work rolled out during that huge stimulus spend.
    Over 350 Australians die every year whilst doing mostly blue collar work.
    Of course to point this reality out would have been even more politically damaging for the ALP.

    If this Corona virus kills more than half a dozen Aussies ScoMo is Gone.

  2. This thing is out. Even if China was magically able to contain it over the next few months, it is highly likely it has spread to SE Asia and probably into Africa, at which point there is no chance of containing it. The only hope is a vaccine.
    If there is no vaccine developed over the next few months then global stocks are going to be hammered. I don’t care how much liquidity central banks pump into economies, with global trade and travel shutting down, global recession is likely. I’m actually amazed at how this has been underestimated by markets.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      Corona virus vaccines will probably only provide an immunity for a short period of time I was reading somewhere.
      People who have caught other corona strains have been known to be re-infected a relatively short time later.

    • More people die of the Measles which is more infectious than Coronavirus.

      In fact there are many more contagious infections which kill way more people than this.

      Its a MASSIVE beat up by western media – as usual.

      I thought the writing was on the wall and the end of China was imminent with the Hong Kong protests ….did we just drop that and move onto the next thing ?

      Have you not noticed that about this blog yet ?

      End of the China “Spratly Islands” , anyone remember that Shanghai Composite stock market crash in 2016 – yeah that bubble was definitely going to end China – no way around it.

      Remember Xi Emperor for life ?

      Don’t forget Chinese steel recycling was going to crash global Iron Ore several years ago.

      And China simply can’t keep building – ten years ago.

      Maybe there is a theme to this hysteria ?

      Macrobusiness puts out about ten articles a day – in my view on average at least 4 or more are aimed at anti-Chinese propaganda. From our universities being overrun, taking our jobs, buying our homes, influencing our politicians to Coronavirus hysteria

      Meanwhile Germany is now considering leaving the EU as Merkel has lost to the Far Right in what was considered unthinkable only last year – a far bigger issue than Coronavirus or even China – the total collapse of the EU – but no mention of real economic issues.

      Ever notice that ?

      • Chinese astroturfers up early. Love the uber-Anglo name. Sure, virus thingy is no problem. All made up by “western media”. Chinese population super-happy, CCP to rule forever. Got it.

      • If it’s just a beat up then why are doctors and nurses working 24/7 with little sleep, why are dead bodies bagged and piled up in hospital corridors waiting to be collected, why are people suspected of being sick arrested on the street, why are 400 million people quarantined, why are crematories burning bodies around the clock?

      • Display NameMEMBER

        CFR 10+ times flu, R0 4 times flu, nothing to see here.
        There are now dozens of videos out of China that show a massive mobilisation of resources that an ordinary flu outbreak doesn’t account for.

  3. scottb1978MEMBER

    This will do more for reducing Ccp influence in Aus and worldwide than anything else we could have hoped for

  4. Personally I would not trust the modelling by scientists half the world away using guesstimates : they’re simply looking for publicity. Right now we don’t know the real number of people infected, nor the mortality rate, nor the basic reproduction number. It seems that the report that it can spread during the incubation period is false too.


    So temperature scanners at airport will work, similar to SARS.

    • Not if they take antipyretics which there have been plenty of examples of people doing so to get past the scanners…

    • PalimpsestMEMBER

      The language in the article is notable. The source patient was unaware she was ill until she returned to China. The two direct contacts were unaware they were ill before the on-transmitted it to two more patients. On really close questioning the health authority found indicators of minor symptoms no one recognised at the time, but technically were present. Therefore the claim is totally incorrect and we should all stop worrying. Yeah OK. The overblown language in the way this incident is dismissed is more worrying than anything.

    • Nah.The Japanese came out on the weekend and stated that at least half the cases they are dealing with were contracted from someone who was not symptomatic.

    • desmodromicMEMBER

      Flawed doesn’t mean false. Questionable science is fixed by new evidence and better science. What is your data source?

    • It’s way way too early to be dismissing asymptomatic transmission – plenty we still do not know:

      “The latest confirmed patient is the country’s first to be infected with the virus who has not shown any symptoms, although doctors said he has a high viral load.

      It is believed the man was exposed to the same origin of the virus — either the plane, the airport in Hong Kong, or somewhere in Italy — as his other family members, the CECC noted, adding that it was still unclear whether he is infectious.”

      Question is whether having a high viral load while asymptomatic allows you to spread it.

      • There is a huge difference between ‘infectious during incubation’ and asymptomatic carriers. The first means a person is infectious at day 0 after infection, the other means a carrier may not sure any symptoms after incubation has finished. The average lag of 6 days before becoming infectious makes a world of difference. Note that 15% of SARS carriers are asymptomatic, and thermal scanners at airport was enough to stop it from spreading.

        China is still stuffed, but it means the rest of the world can keep it contained without closing off their borders completely.

        • asymptomatic by definition means showing no symptoms and fever being a symptom no?
          So how will temperature scanners working at the airport work if they don’t have a fever?

      • Another disease which is somewhat asymptomatic is HIV. The full efects dont come back to bite till several years later to finish off the person. Some people upon initial infection period (first 3 months) show little signs of what has occured however the person is infectious within the first couple of days. Some are saying the coronavirus has a bunch of HIV receptors so you gotta wonder if these chinese clowns cooked up an airborne variant of HIV which is now on the loose. All the symptoms are the same as HIV initial infection. Interesting how Thai doctors using HIV meds reckon they have some effect on coronavirus. Whichever way you look at this the Chinese are freaked out over something.

  5. Anyone else struck by the Chinese actions domestically (quarantining up to 40M) while simultaneously criticising other countries for implementing their own quarantine measures.

    China likes to quote the international authority (i.e. WHO) now. However China was rather critical of the International Tribunals’s ruling in favour of The Philippines re South China Sea.

  6. If China doesn’t go back to work it will be chexit for their role in international supply chains and an economic heart attack.
    If China goes back to work the virus will spread uncontrollably.

    What a decision to make.

    • Yes the early Coronavirus vaccine research encountered significant issues., leading to caution about human trials

      “An early concern for application of a SARS-CoV vaccine was the experience with other coronavirus infections which induced enhanced disease and immunopathology in animals when challenged with infectious virus [31], a concern reinforced by the report that animals given an alum adjuvanted SARS vaccine and subsequently challenged with SARS-CoV exhibited an immunopathologic lung reaction…………Thus, concern for proceeding to humans with candidate SARS-CoV vaccines emerged from these various observations.” – Tseng et al.

      In lay terms, the SARS vaccine trialled appeared to cause increased lung damage when the animal was subsequently exposed to the virus (which is the opposite of what you want). .

      Of course SARS disappeared and with it, interest in coronavirus vaccine research.

      Now maybe this time will be different. There will be enormous demand for a vaccine, and hence huge R&D budgets. But suggestions that we may have a vaccine good to go in 6 months would appear very optimistic.