William Cheong of Dunbar Consultants in Hong Kong on the Coronavirus

Top Quote The big unknown here is how deadly and contagious coronavirus is. No one really knows, but medical experts at Johns Hopkins are downplaying the threat from 2019-nCoV, the name for the type of coronavirus grabbing headlines. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) February 12, 2020 - “The immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general public in the United States is thought to be low at this time,” according to Doctors at Johns Hopkins.

    Even if coronavirus turns out to be as contagious and deadly as really bad contagious diseases like Ebola, it will most likely be successfully curbed. The Ebola outbreak a few years ago was effectively kept in check, and so were the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003-04, and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreak early last decade.

    Mr. Cheong said, “All three outbreaks were contained before they could have a significant impact on the global economy or financial markets around the world,” and added, “We expect the same outcome with the current outbreak.”

    The good news is that health officials learned a lot about containing virus outbreaks from those three experiences. Remembers Cheong.

    Chinese authorities have already sequenced the virus and shared it with the global health community, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have just developed a test for the virus.”

    Another positive is that public awareness seems to be much higher, because of the more rapid response in China and the internet and social media. Local authorities in China reported SARS quickly in early January 2003. But up the chain of command, officials dragged their feet.

    China’s economy was about to wind down anyway for the Chinese New Year celebration when the outbreak occurred. So, productivity was already scheduled to take a seasonal dip.

    To the extent that the virus in China creates domestic fear and unrest, or hurts the economy, it weakens China’s Premier Xi Jinping’s hand in tariff negotiations with the U.S. This suggests and easier path toward progress, which would be a positive for business confidence and the U.S. stock market. Of course, the bad news here is that a lot more people in China have travel plans around the New Year. This could make the virus spread more quickly.

    Whenever there’s a new virus outbreak, people are egged on by the media echo chamber, which latches on to the story and repeats it ad nauseum, drilling fear and concern into the minds of investors and the general public alike. The same thing happens on social media, where rumors can spread unchecked.

    “The truly said part is the loss of lives and numbers of sick. Also, the work stoppage in the country will slow things for awhile but as always we will find a cure and stop this virus in it’s tracks hopefully sooner rather then later. Said Cheong.

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