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Coronavirus: how far will it spread? | FT

February 1, 2020

What we know about
the coronavirus called 2019 nCoV
changes hour by hour, making it hard to predict how
far the virus might spread and how many people
could become infected. One Chinese government
expert, Zhong Nanshan, says the epidemic may peak
towards the second week of February, but academics from
the University of Hong Kong, think that’s more likely
to happen sometime in April or May. There is so much uncertainty
about this new virus, that it’s almost impossible
to make accurate predictions. First of all, we don’t
know how many people have the virus right now. Reported cases have surged
in the last few days, but that could be down
to increased surveillance and testing. There could still be thousands
who aren’t coming forward, either because they
have mild symptoms or because they feel safer
waiting it out at home. Next, we don’t know how
easily the virus spreads. On average, it looks as
though each infected person has the ability to
infect two or three more. This is known as the
reproduction number, and it’s significant. Up until now the
number of infections is thought to have
doubled every six days. That gives us some
really big numbers. Mass quarantines, the
extended public holiday, plus putting the
public on high alert may slow the spread of
disease from person to person, but it’s hard to know how
effective these measures will be because of
another big unknown. We don’t yet know how long it
takes for an infected person to show symptoms, nor
whether that person can pass the disease on before
showing any signs of illness. This raises doubts
over the value of temperature screening, which
has been a key control so far. Finally, we don’t know
how severe the virus is. It seems to be spreading
faster and wider than Sars, which infected
8,000 people over eight months. This coronavirus has
gone past that number in less than two months. Around 20 per cent of
patients progressed from fever and a dry cough
to more severe symptoms such as pneumonia and
organ failure with around 4 per cent dying, but at
the start of an outbreak serious cases tend
to appear first, like the tip of an iceberg. So the rate of
severe illness may drop as milder cases turn up. In Sars, the death rate
was about 10 per cent, but even if this new virus
has a lower mortality rate, it could still kill
more people because it causes more infections. And while it’s
spreading, it might also mutate to become more
or less virulent. We are better prepared than we
were in 2003 during the Sars epidemic, but this still looks
like a monumental global health challenge. And until we know more
about the virus itself, its final impact will
be hard to predict.


  • Reply Tony Faxton January 31, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    In the fear of hurting Chinese economy, director of WHO downplayed the seriousness of the virus, and now it's spreading like an wild fire. Even on the day of declaring international health emergency, he tried so hard to save the face of China calling it the most wonderfully handled situation by Chinese government and people should still feel free to travel and trade with China. I really think he should resign his position. He and WHO under his leadership have been one of THE WORST organization, making blunders after blunders.

  • Reply Trap Town January 31, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    Financial Times

  • Reply Nilesh Bhakre January 31, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    Revenge of killing innocent animal

  • Reply Srini Vasan January 31, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    Financial Times or medical times.???…FT need to provide huw economy get affected because of this virus globally….

  • Reply Doug Hanchard January 31, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    Very poor reporting.

  • Reply what a shambles January 31, 2020 at 5:26 pm

    Hard to stop it when everyone is allowed to fly around the world from China, WHO acting like they're more worried about trade more than health

  • Reply jason okwaho January 31, 2020 at 5:28 pm

    Google Bianco Research coronavirus, it can save your life.

  • Reply SPARTACUS January 31, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    Coronavirus was created in the laboratory to be used as a bacteriological weapon. The creators lost control of the experiment and the virus spread, very difficult to control it now that it is spreading. May this hope serve as a lesson for all ….

  • Reply Muslim Flat Earth January 31, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    Fake .

  • Reply TheGamingMelon January 31, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    This virus is expected to have an R0 of 4.1

  • Reply ᎡႮՏՏᏆᎪ`Տ ᗞᗴᖴᗴᑎᗞᗴᖇ January 31, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    Close all borders, expel all Chinese.

  • Reply GOD FATHER January 31, 2020 at 5:44 pm

    Xi should step down… Taking responsibility.

  • Reply what a shambles January 31, 2020 at 5:44 pm

  • Reply Nathan Hallifax January 31, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    International travel should be immediately stopped. This virus may not end us but sooner or later one will unless international travel is banned completely. People should not mix.

  • Reply London Power January 31, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    Brexit virus is worst to much racism and fascism in English society

  • Reply Brent Miller January 31, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    2 things, anyone there should stay there and the Media are really having a hayday telling us how bad it is and a lot of people are hanging on every word so the ratings are sky high and the media want to keep it that way.

  • Reply Andrew January 31, 2020 at 6:14 pm

    Downvoted, not because of the…I just hate how she flails her arms about…

  • Reply Thien Phung January 31, 2020 at 6:17 pm

    The title should be changed to “what don’t we know” – waste of time!

  • Reply Georges Moraitis January 31, 2020 at 6:18 pm

    Weird hand moves

  • Reply Haradeas January 31, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    A lot of information is known, RO is 4.. something (although this is estimate from a Chinese research document doing research on corona virus). Looking at the event in Germany it seems that the incubation time is 3 days. The danger is, is that the virus can multiply with and without the host having symptoms. ( (

  • Reply DC0014 January 31, 2020 at 6:21 pm

    Well until they ban all flights to and from China for them moment.. then lets take it serious… but thats not the case so life goes on

  • Reply ObsoletePowerCorrupts January 31, 2020 at 6:32 pm

    Hmmm, The infections doubling each six days does sound a bit like it can partly be explained in terms of a glut of tests being done. They could include a very large subset whereby they have been infected in one go. That might mean a load more people had it and then got better. Holidays mean some have been resting hermits of late anyway.

  • Reply Tuatha DeDanaan January 31, 2020 at 6:35 pm

    She appears not to have washed or combed in hair in the past three months.
    Personal hygiene matters.

  • Reply California Dreamin' January 31, 2020 at 6:36 pm

    The virus is busy being spread to half the UK population, by road , on a Friday afternoon, because some idiot in the government ….residing in No 10…. has no concept of a drive from Brize Norton to the Wirral, via the M6……when Manchester Airport is on the doorstep !!!
    As long as the virus is taken as far away as possible from Westminster, to the Wirral , and now Newcastle, is all that matters.

  • Reply Krazy Kanuk January 31, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    Thank you for the unbiased report!

  • Reply jerzy kunowski January 31, 2020 at 9:03 pm

    no masks in pharmacies

  • Reply Aaron Malcolm January 31, 2020 at 9:18 pm

    coronavirus: Hold my beer

  • Reply Rubber Dub January 31, 2020 at 9:46 pm

    More to the point is how far are the globalist vermin allowing it to spread ..

  • Reply Loppy2345 January 31, 2020 at 10:44 pm

    Coronavirus is going to become the new Flu, it's not going away.

  • Reply Mahmoud jamal Mahmoud January 31, 2020 at 11:48 pm

    That country and its viruses that never ends 😠

  • Reply Finn and Morgan K February 1, 2020 at 12:42 am

    I swear this is the next plague I feel so sorry for those people but I don’t want em near me stay out Britain 🇬🇧

  • Reply patates kizartmasi February 1, 2020 at 12:43 am

    America : shoot everything walking
    China : eat everything walking

  • Reply wolf blitzer February 1, 2020 at 1:09 am

    Keep people from travelling it's simple it will stop the spread of this virus

  • Reply James H February 1, 2020 at 2:05 am

    What's the difference between this and the normal flu? The normal 2017-2018 flu hospitalized 900,000 and killed 80,000. Infects over 31million each year.

  • Reply Lee Bowers February 1, 2020 at 2:40 am
    ⚡⚡coronavirus counter ⚡⚡

  • Reply sungkchun February 1, 2020 at 3:02 am

    One of the major problem is Chinese government’s lack of candor or intentional lies to hide the bad news on the gravity of severity…

  • Reply Norma Stafford February 1, 2020 at 3:19 am

    Kind of scary ..

  • Reply Majic C February 1, 2020 at 7:08 am

    Hard to predict – now there's the truth.

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  • Reply George Henry Moore February 1, 2020 at 11:30 am

    Well, you can predict the r0? 2 and 3 is quite a difference on a global scale. According to the non peer reviewed paper by Zhidong Cao1, Qingpeng Zhang1, Xin Lu, Dirk Pfeiffer, Zhongwei Jia, Hongbing 8Song, Daniel Dajun Zeng in cooperation with other researchers the r0 is more than 4. Can you or anyone confirm the validity of these data?

  • Reply Laura Kluk February 1, 2020 at 1:18 pm

    Free Spread Prediction Tool

  • Reply NN SWEN February 1, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    It seems a biased report as it presents more on the negative numbers rather than an objective picture…

  • Reply John Baker February 1, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    This will not stop spreading until everything but essential services get shut down.

  • Reply Ashyo Sings February 1, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    Its been confirmed to have an R0 of 4.08 and Asymptomatic up to 14 days, contagious after 2 days

  • Reply COMMIE CHINESE'S DO ORGANS HAVESTING February 1, 2020 at 9:00 pm

    invest in your own economy ; dump communist china !!!

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