On 31 December 2019, Wuhan’s health commission announced the first case of a then unknown coronavirus. In the last three weeks this has grown to 830 cases including 26 deaths. The overwhelming majority of these cases are in Wuhan province in central China, with isolated cases elsewhere in, Beijing, Shenzhen, Thailand, Japan and the US. There have been a number of suspected but unconfirmed cases in Hong Kong. To date all of these cases are connected directly with people originating from Wuhan.
Other than a suspected case involving an arriving passenger in Finland, there are no reports of people being ill in Europe.
As the situation is both new and evolving rapidly, it is unclear as to how the virus is being transmitted and so how easy it is to contact. Authorities throughout the world are taking it extremely seriously. This seriousness is reflected both in terms of public health announcements and press attention. Coronavirus is in the front pages of newspapers throughout the world.
This concern is understandable. The coronavirus is closely related to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). IN 2002, this was contracted by approximately 8,000 of whom 10% died. The collateral damage from the fear of this was estimated as being between $30bn-100bn of disrupted trade and travel.
“Whilst there is much that is unknown about this new virus,” said Tom Jenkins CEO of ETOA, “We do know that the factors that led to the rapid spread of SARS are not being repeated. The Chinese authorities have been prompt in highlighting the problem, and are supplying daily updates on the situation. President Xi Jinping called upon all officials to tackle the issue as a national crisis. The Chinese may be far more mobile than they were in 2002, but the country is far better prepared and determined that the virus will be contained. Draconian measures are being put in place to halt any spread, including the banning of all outbound public transport from Wuhan.”
“SARS was spread by people not knowing about the infection and, consequently, unaware that they were travelling from an infected area. This is not the case in 2020.
“In Europe, precautions are in place. Airports are installing monitoring. Major public information campaigns are being initiated. All health officials are on alert. The virus is of major international concern, it remains a very remote threat – effectively no threat – for any traveller in Europe. “