Coronavirus: containment to mitigation. Virologists use the P word

by | Feb 25, 2020 | Despatch

Global response to the coronavirus is about to shift from containment to mitigation – that is, things are about to get worse before they get better. This means shortages. It means the public health response will change. It means falling financial markets.

This from virologist Ian Mackay:

“The P word alone won’t help the public understand what’s about to change: the end of most quarantines, travel restrictions, contact tracing, and other measures designed to keep “them” from infecting “us,” and the switch to measures like canceling mass events designed to keep us from infecting each other”.

You can read Mackay’s blog here.

We checked it with another health professional overnight who said scientists and doctors had preferred to pursue a non-alarmist line on the virus until now but the response would soon change.

Financial markets caught up overnight. Gold is rallying, interest rate markets too. Share markets are selling off. The Coalition’s ambitions of a surplus have just faded. Not only is Australia massively exposed to China via its mining exports, the widespread shut-down in Chinese factories means shortages of a lot of things. Think penicillin, already in global shortage.

The coronavirus is not a particularly deadly virus yet it is highly contagious and the fact that containment is failing will shortly lead to a global mitigation campaign focusing on public education.

This from a medical source:

The regions of China responsible for 80% of exports are in lockdown and have been for weeks.

The last time something like this happened was when a limited number of chemical factories around Beijing were closed just before and during the Beijing Olympics to reduce the smog. Please note the words “limited” and “around Beijing”.

This ~ 4 week closure was documented to have caused worldwide shortages of a number of the APIs used to make many of our drugs and a range of drugs:

I have a prediction.

Unless China reopens for business in the next 4 weeks we will, later this year, see worldwide shortages of virtually all drugs because we are not talking about closing just the chemical factories around Beijing. We are talking about closing down more or less all of them…

We are in danger of the post-antibiotic world arriving, decades early. This August 2019 article lays it out.

Last month, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission held a hearing on the United States’ growing reliance on China’s pharmaceutical products. The topic reminded me of a spirited discussion described in Bob Woodward’s book Fear: Trump in the White House. In the discussion, Gary Cohn, then chief economic advisor to President Trump, argued against a trade war with China by invoking a Department of Commerce study that found that 97 percent of all antibiotics in the United States came from China. “If you’re the Chinese and you want to really just destroy us, just stop sending us antibiotics,” he said.

It won’t just be antibiotics that end up in short supply of course.

The Indians significantly decreased their capacity to produce APIs over a decade ago.

Michael West established to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences.

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