The world is NOT defeating the Wuhan virus (and when I say ‘world,’ I mean China)
By Kent R. Kroeger (February 13, 2020)
Forecasts for the Wuhan virus (2019-nCoV) are only as reliable as the reported data underlying them.
The world got sucker punched by the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China yesterday.
In reporting on the Wuhan virus, the Ministry threw a cruel curve ball into the standard contagion forecasting tools. After the Ministry’s reports on the spread of the virus had shown day-to-day drops in the daily number of new cases for almost a week, the Ministry reported over 15,000 new cases in a 24-hour-period, most of them occurring in Hubei Province where the city of Wuhan is located (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Daily Number of New 2019-nCoV cases (Worldwide)
The Johns Hopkins CSSE tracking website for the virus is now reporting 60,349 confirmed cases (59,822 in China) and 1,370 deaths (1,310 in China).
Though the Ministry hasn’t fully elaborated on the nature of this abrupt increase in China, it appears a concentrated effort by the Chinese government to “round-up” citizens showing virus symptoms is behind this latest surge in new cases. In other words, there was a reporting backlog (i.e., people weren’t reporting their symptoms) and this marked increase is not indicative of the sudden spread of the virus itself.
From a forecasting point of view, it reminds us that there is always some variance in the variable of interest that may not be accounted for in the forecasting model.
Using this new data, our adjusted Ratkowsky Sigmoidal Growth forecasting model for the Wuhan virus (2019-nCoV) forecasts the final number of confirmed cases to range between 72,670 and 218,040 cases (or a midpoint forecast of 145,350 cases) and the final number of deaths to range between 1,600 and 4,800 (or a midpoint forecast of 3,200 deaths).
This is a depressing a forecast, considering the best case scenario involves 1,600 deaths (twice the number of deaths associated with the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome [SARS]).
Is China doing enough? At this point, even the Chinese government is giving an emphatic “No!”
They admit they are in “wartime” conditions and even that, as yet, as not been enough to stop the spread of the Wuhan virus.
But, in the final analysis, the evidence may show that China is addressing this highly-contagious virus in the most heroic (though draconian) fashion possible. Its construction of a field hospital from scratch in not even a two-week period (January 23 to February 3) is evidence of this effort (see video below).
In fact, the completion of this field hospital may account for some of yesterday’s unexpected increase in confirmed cases.
Still, China has not stopped the spread of 2019-nCoV — a virus that may kill as many as 2.2 percent of those who contract it. China is in the midst of a genuine war in which they are losing the day-to-day tactical battles, even if the country’s strategic position all but guarantees they will eventually win, probably by the time April’s spring heat hits, according to part-time epidemiologist Donald Trump.
Significant damage has already been done to the Chinese economy (which should still recover in the the second quarter of 2020).
This crisis is obviously not over. Secondary outbreaks and the possibility the virus could mutate into something even worse (i.e., more contagious and/or deadly) is constant threat.
China will eventually win this war. But they haven’t yet.
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