Is this novel coronavirus a pandemic?
On February 18, WHO again declined to claim the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing that it would create unnecessary global panic. “So far there are 92 cases in 12 countries outside China of human-to-human transmission. We have not yet seen the sustained local transmission, except in specific circumstances like the Diamond Princess cruise ship.” Should WHO escalate the situation by claiming pandemic? Let’s see why they should.
COVID-19 is more deadly than SARS
An article named “Cryo-EM Structure of the 2019-nCoV Spike in the Prefusion Conformation” indicates ACE2 bound to 2019-nCoV S ectodomain with ~15 nM affinity, which is 97 approximately 10- to 20-fold higher affinity than ACE2 binding to SARS-CoV S. Basically, it says COVID-19 is 10 to 20 times easier to attack humans than SARS.
COVID-19 spreads rapidly
R0 is the reproduction number describing how fast a virus could spread. The higher the R0, the more rapid and extensive the spread. For example, the measles’ R0 is about 10, influenza in 1918 has an R0 from 2-3. SARS has an RO from 0.5 to 3. R0 number is usually smaller with time passing. While COVID-19 has an RO as high as 5.6 and it is still about 4 after months since the outbreak.
There is no treatment or vaccine in a short term
The majority of patients recover on their own. When it comes to a high-density urban area, even the 2% mortality rate(acclaimed by CCP) will cause millions of people’s death.
Various experts say it took at least 6 months to come up with the vaccine even if the governments or companies are willing to put in massive resources and money.
People infected might have no symptoms at all
NHK, a Japanese broadcasting organization, released an emergency report on the new coronavirus on Feb 8 which was highly focused on the asymptomatic infection. According to the latest research by Hokkaido University, in more than 50 cases it tracked, asymptomatic infection averaged 3.4 days after It can infect other people, and almost half of the cases are infected by asymptomatic people.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship is the largest cluster of the deadly virus outside China. It has completed tests for 2,404 people (about 3,500 total onboard) as of Feb 18, 2020. 542 passengers and crew tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The infection rate is 22.5%. Among the infected passengers, 47% have no symptoms (254/542).
COVID-19 has a long incubation period
According to researchers from China, the virus could have up to 41 days incubation period. While it is a common practice worldwide to quarantine for 14 days. This makes it possible that people show symptoms after the quarantine period.
The Westerdam cruise took off from Singapore on Jan 6 and has 1,445 passengers and 802 crew on board. Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, the cruise was rejected to dock at Manila, Philippines. It was later rejected by Japan, South Korea, the US, and Thailand. On February 14, it finally docked in Cambodia.
All passengers and crew tested negative by nucleic acid for the novel coronavirus and were released immediately. But one day later, one of the passengers, an 83 years old American, tested positive for the novel coronavirus according to the Malaysia public health department, raising concern that other passengers could have been infected.
271 passengers on the Westerdam cruise went back to Canada on February 14 without any quarantine or tests. A few days later, Canadian health officials urged all Westerdam passengers to stay at home for a 14-days self-quarantine.
In summary, COVID-19 should be claimed by WHO as a pandemic and the world should be alerted and well prepared.