Questions of Risk Follow the Spread of a New Virus out of China

Jan 23, 2020 | 00:41 GMT

Authorities in Wuhan, China, check the temperature of a passenger at a wharf on the Yangtze River on Jan. 22, 2020.

Security officials check the temperature of passengers at a wharf on the Yangtze River in Wuhan, China, on Jan. 22, 2020. The spread of an emerging coronavirus that has led to 17 deaths so far has prompted emergency health measures across China.

(Getty Images)


  • Compared with the outbreak of SARS in 2003, greater transparency on the part of the Chinese central government about the spread of a new coronavirus that recently surfaced in Wuhan has facilitated earlier responses and greater public awareness. 
  • In the short term, the disease — and the emergency measures introduced in response — will lead to significant logistical disruptions and reduced travel in and out of Hubei province, which will have secondary impacts on China’s manufacturing and export economy.
  • Moving forward, information transparency, emergency responses at both the national and subnational levels and international coordination will be critical to the management of this emerging virus.

Over the past three days, the reported spread of a deadly strain of coronavirus first detected in Wuhan, China, both within and beyond Chinese borders has raised concerns of a wider outbreak that would increase the risks of significant economic and social impacts both in China and the wider world. The coronavirus, which is the same type of virus that led to a disruptive global outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2002 and 2003, was first reported in Wuhan in November. Notably, however, compared with the apparent cover-up and scarcity of information released by Chinese officials during the first three months of the SARS outbreak, which first arose in Guangdong province, greater transparency about the current viral outbreak on the part of local and national officials has mobilized an earlier official response and raised public awareness, which could mitigate the extent of its spread....

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