Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus China has, not very arguably, engaged in a strategic campaign to “re-write history” with respect to the outbreak. Consider this from a Professor at Berkley on what China is currently doing, “It’s an orchestrated, all-out campaign by the Chinese government through every channel at a level you rarely see. It’s a counter offensive.” One can consider this campaign in terms of the Chinese publishing a book, translated into multiple languages, praising their own handling of the outbreak “and the dominance of the Chinese system in fighting the crisis” This engineering of stories about the origins and spread of the virus also includes an attempt to blame the U.S for the virus claiming that the virus was introduced into China by a U.S. soldier.
There are stories that have escaped the clutches of the Chinese authorities. For example, it would appear that Chinese authorities have been engaging in inhumane initiatives such as welding building doors shut so that residents are trapped inside and dragging people off the streets if they are suspected of having the coronavirus. I have read reports about Chinese pet owners throwing their pets from rooftops as a result of having believed false social media reports that animals can transmit the Covid-19 virus to humans. However, I would need more corroborating evidence to confirm this story.
As of today March 20th, 2020, the confirmed number of cases of the Covid-19 virus in Australia stands at 681. There have been 6 deaths from the virus. These numbers are incredibly low and are definitely not a cause for panic. However, supermarket madness including verbal and physical abuse of supermarket staff continues as it has done since the panic buying commenced. I would note that such has not been the case in my local supermarket, at least not during my visits. Perhaps this is because I live in an affluent suburb with well to do people. Yes, I know, I am being terribly judgemental but my belief is that the people who are verbally and physically abusing supermarket staff are actually giving vent to underlying frustrations not experienced by people living in million dollar homes.
The supermarket where I shop has now placed strict limits on purchases of all dried goods, all tinned foods and all fresh meat such that the shelves today were, for the most part, reasonably well stocked. To be a little more specific, one could only buy, for example, a total of two tins of vegetables or two tins of fruit meaning that one could not choose twenty tins of different brands and /or types of vegetables or twenty tins of different brands and/ or different types of fruit. It was two tins of fruit or two tins of vegetables full stop. The shelves containing bottled water were, as they have been throughout the panic buying, fully stocked, a fact that still baffles me given that water is essential for survival. The only product not available was, not surprisingly, toilet roll.
I have a new favourite data source for Covid-19 statistics because this site, in addition to giving all the crucial statistics, provides an interactive map that allows one to see the number of infections by location including countries and cities within countries. Today, cases in Australia jumped by 110, an increase of more than 24%. Some additional interesting information is that “228 of the confirmed cases nationally were considered to be overseas acquired“. Come on Australia. Really, 228 cases overseas acquired. I have written previously on the ineffectiveness of travel bans and border screening so shall say no more at this point. Of the six deaths in Australia, the age of the youngest fatality was 77, confirming for Australia at least, a point I have made in previous postings that the older one is the more one is at risk.
In other news, the selfish and stupid behaviour of Australians continues with thieves stealing hundreds of rolls of toilet paper along with hand sanitizer from public toilets in East Gippsland. Australians also continue to show themselves to be bigoted and racist with an attack by a local man on a Hong Kong student studying in Hobart. The reason appears to be that the student was wearing a face mask and the man believed that the student had the virus. This case does raise the larger issue which is that generally speaking, people are stupid, ill-informed, and seemingly incapable of doing any kind of basic research into the Covid-19 virus. Well, that’s what happens when you spend your days on social media and your nights watching reality TV shows in the belief that the question of which team wins MKR really matters.
It was my intention to return to the point that this pandemic started in China and that China has so far been responsible for 244,601 cases of the Covid-19 virus worldwide along with 10,032 deaths worldwide. In doing so I was also intending to make the point that China has been responsible for the Bird Flu (1996-1997) SARS (2002-2004), and now Covid-19 (2019) and that China continually puts the world at risk by not enforcing any health standards in their live animal and poultry markets. However, Keith Guo, the Asian Press Officer for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has rather made the point for me. He has said that, “the filthy omnivores live animal markets, slaughterhouses, and factory farms in China threatened the health of individuals as it provided a breeding ground for life-threatening diseases like coronavirus, SARS, bird flu, and more.”
The point here is quite obviously that conditions in the markets in China are such that a virus outbreak could occur at anytime. Thus, whilst the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called the Covid-19 virus a “once in a one hundred year event“, the truth is that a virus such as this one could emerge at any time. Looking at the history of recent epidemics and pandemics, each one has originated in some way as the result of a virus jumping from animals to humans and no one can predict when such an event might occur. What we can say, however, is that the fact of thousands of unhygienic market places across hundreds of cities and towns in a country with a population of just over 1.4 billion people is a sure fire recipe for a pandemic disaster in the future. This makes Scott Morrison’s statement somewhat baffling, one might even say irresponsible.
Another way to consider this point is to say that we have had two potentially serious virus outbreaks from China – the H5N1 virus commonly known as Bird Flu (1996-1997) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) (2002-2004) – along with the Covid-19 outbreak in 2019 which brings us to a total of 3 serious virus events that have emerged from China in a 30 year period. We have also experienced Swine Flu (2009-2010) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) (2012-present), both of which originated outside of China. Far from the Covid-19 virus looking like a “once in one hundred year event“, historical facts would suggest that we can anticipate a number of other virus outbreaks well within a one hundred year period. It is, of course, impossible to say just how many such events there might be because we have no way to predict when a human will come into contact with an infected animal or bird.
First Published March 20th, 2020