The Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) pandemic has caused immense global impact as the virus spreads internationally, hitting different counties in America, Europe and Australia. On 12th March 2020, the World Health Organisation has finally declared this outbreak a pandemic. COVID-19 is known to spread from human-to-human, with initial spreaders not having symptoms of pneumonia or fever. This presents a large problem with the containment of the virus, as spreaders can unknowingly infect others in close proximity. The virus is 96% similar to Bat Coronavirus and also 79.5% similar to SARS-CoV (2003) and in the same family as MERS-CoV. This has led to global media coverage and raised awareness of methods to prevent the spread of this disease. However, there has also been a huge amount of fake news and misinformation being spread on this issue. This is an updated list of reputable news sources detailing what’s really happening with the virus.
Coronavirus Map of Global Cases
This interactive map by the CSSE at Johns Hopkins University marks the locations of all the known cases of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). It tracks new cases reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Centre for Disease Control (CDC), NHC and Dingxiangyuan. A second map by internet giant Tencent is also available for more up to date China data.
For more maps and a live feed of verified Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and World news on the outbreak, check out https://coronavirus.thebaselab.com/, a website created and run by Thebaselab, a group of Hong Kong high school students.
What counts as a “confirmed case”?- a numbers game
According to the South China Morning Post who had sight of classified Chinese data, over 43,000 people had tested positive for Coronavirus by end of February 2020 but were asymptomatic i.e. showed no symptoms. These people were quarantined but were not included in the official tally of confirmed cases.
Currently there is no global consensus on how “confirmed cases” are tallied. The WHO classifies anyone who tests positive as a “confirmed case”-irrespective of whether they show symptoms or not. This is the method followed by South Korea and Hong Kong. From 1st April 2020 onwards, China will also be including asymptomatic carriers when counting the number of confirmed cases.
Countries are currently scrambling to prevent huge spikes in cases of Coronavirus, and one method of doing so seems to be restricting travel or imposing quarantine measures for those who are entering the country. We’ve found Cathay Pacific’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) travel restrictions page to provide a very helpful and updated summary of the travel restrictions imposed by various countries.
However, travellers are suggested to look at the relevant governmental websites for each country before visiting as restrictions can be imposed with very short notice.
For example, the US Department of State lists countries by 4 levels, 1 being “Exercise Normal Precautions” to 4 being “Do Not Travel”.
Meanwhile in Hong Kong, the government on 23rd March 2020 announced it would ban all foreign tourists and transit arrivals to Hong Kong from 25th March 2020. Singapore had previously made a similar announcement, with such restrictions to take effect from 23rd March 2020.
Australia and New Zealand are also following suit and will shut its borders to foreigners. Furthermore, cruise ships will not be permitted to dock in Australia or New Zealand for the next 30 days. Nationals from both countries are also being urged by their governments to return home and avoid any overseas travel.
While the rest of the world is locking down and staying at home, China will be ending its lockdown of Hubei province (including the city of Wuhan) on 8th April 2020. Wuhan and Hubei province had been the epicentre of the outbreak and were placed under lockdown since 23rd January 2020. However the authorities are now reversing this lockdown since Hubei has not seen any new infections for more than 1 week and as almost all new Chinese cases were from people arriving from overseas.
Olympics postponed to July 2021
On 24th March 2020, 2 days after the meeting of the IOC, a joint decision was made by Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) President Thomas Bach to postpone the Tokyo Olympics until 2021.
The IOC’s Executive Board reconvened on 30th March 2020 and announced the new dates for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The Olympics will run from 23rd July 2021 to 8th August 2021, whilst the Paralympics will take place from 24th August 2021 to 5th September 2021. The Olympics will however still be called “Tokyo 2020” despite being postponed to 2021.
China builds makeshift hospitals
One of the newsworthy engineering feats coming out of China recently was the rapid construction of 16 makeshift hospitals in Wuhan by 28th February 2020. In particular, Huoshenshan (火神山) hospital was constructed between 23rd January 2020 to 2nd February 2020, taking only 11 days to complete. Footage taken from inside the building shows bars on the windows and doors that only open in one direction.
In some positive news however, China’s state broadcaster CCTV has reported that on 1st March 2020, the first of those makeshift hospitals has discharged the last of its recovered patients and closed.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Declares COVID-19 a Pandemic
WHO has declared this outbreak as a Pandemic on 12th March 2020.
This is after observing that since early March 2020, the number of cases of Coronavirus outside China have increased 13-fold and the number of affected countries tripled.
The WHO also on 13th March 2020 launch its COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The Fund, which the WHO considers the first of its kind, will allow individuals, corporations and institutions worldwide to donate towards implementing its COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan.
Inconsistencies in the WHO’s advice in tackling Coronavirus
First of all many thanks to our community member Roman Strobl for his detailed look into the various potentially misleading and/or contradictory advices by the WHO. As well as taking steps to correspond with them on these important topics. You can check out his full research with updates here. In short:
- The WHO’s initial instructional video on correct mask wearing is possibly misleading. The WHO are currently considering the feedback provided by Roman on this.
- The Advice on use of masks in the community, during home care, and in health care settings in the context of COVID-19 dated 19th March 2020 (the “Advice”) issued by the WHO only advises individuals with respiratory symptoms to wear a medical mask. However this ignores those who are infected but do not show symptoms, notwithstanding that research has found that people with Coronavirus can be infectious before they show symptoms.
- The Advice does not put enough emphasis on asymptomatic transmitters, even though some initial findings from these research teams even show that these “covert cases” represent some 60% of all infections. Instead the Advice disregards the benefits of widespread mask wearing, does not encourage general social distancing.
- Inconsistencies in the WHO’s publications on spread of the virus. For instance the Advice makes no mention that the virus could be spread in saliva droplets when speaking, whilst their video on the Coronavirus does.
Did the Coronavirus originate from a lab?
The theory that Coronavirus originated from a lab gained traction after an article in the New York Post on 22nd February 2020 by Steven Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute of Front Royal, Virginia. The article summarised how COVID-19 may have been accidentally spread from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where researchers were studying bat Coronaviruses to the nearby seafood market where the first cases were discovered.
Mosher’s theory mainly relied on circumstantial evidence, such as the distance between the laboratory and the seafood market, the history of the SARS-CoV virus escaping from Chinese labs in the past. And how Chinese virologist and bioweapons expert Major General Chen Wei visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology with other military scientists in January 2020 to study the Coronavirus.
Some researchers however dispute Mosher’s theory, saying that whilst one cannot rule out the idea that the Coronavirus escaped from a lab, it is unlikely. The uncertainty as to the actual source of the virus also fuels a lot of speculation.
However what appears likely is that COVID-19 originated from wildlife, according to a joint statement by a team of international public health scientists in The Lancet.
There was also previously a research paper also seems to suggest that there may be man-made elements to the Coronavirus. UPDATE: this research paper has been commented on by the scientific community as being rushed, not peer reviewed and the findings “at most a coincidence”. The paper has now been retracted.
Did Coronavirus spread to Italy before it was even identified?
In an interview with Guiseppe Remuzzi, Director of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan noted that he heard of cases of a “strange pneumonia” circulating in Lombardy, Italy in as early as November 2019. However at the time doctors were unable to test for COVID-19 because no such tests were available and the patients did not have x-rays. The patients also recovered 15 days later after several courses of antibiotics. Since COVID-19 has a very long incubation period, Remuzzi suggests that it could be possible that some asymptomatic carriers had travelled around China or overseas before December 2019. Together with the reports of “unusual cases”, Remuzzi further suggests it is possible that Coronavirus was already circulating in Lombardy before people were even aware of the situation in Wuhan.
The Chinese doctors who first warned about Coronavirus
During the initial stages of the outbreak in December 2019, 8 Wuhan doctors tried to warn of this new virus that was later discovered to be Coronavirus. Of these doctors, Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital saw that 7 patients who were quarantined at his hospital seemed to have a virus similar to SARS. On 30 December 2019 he messaged his medical school classmates in a chat group on Weibo warning them about an outbreak and advising them to wear protective clothing.
4 days later on 3rd January 2020, he was summoned to the Public Security Bureau where he was accused of “making false comments” that had “severely disturbed the social order”. He was also asked to sign a letter and warned not to continue such activities. The other 7 doctors were similarly warned.
On 8th January 2020, Dr. Li himself was unknowingly infected by one of his patients and at the end of January, and after several rounds of tests, Dr. Li posted online that he was confirmed to be infected with Coronavirus.
Dr. Li was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit in early February 2020. Due to his condition, he was only able to conduct his interview with CNN via. text message on Weibo.
According to Standnews Hong Kong, there are reports from Chinese media that Dr. Li’s condition worsened in the past few days and had died from the disease on 5th February 2020.
Following Dr. Li’s death, Chinese social media site Weibo was flooded with an outpouring of grief and anger from Chinese netizens. With the top 2 hashtags being “Wuhan government owes Dr Li Wenliang and apology” and “We want freedom of speech”. These 2 hashtags however were quickly censored and very few of these messages remain on the social media platform.
Reports are also emerging of other Chinese doctors, such as Dr. Ai Fen who similarly shared news of an infection (later found to be COVID-19) amongst a Wechat group for doctors and hospital authorities in late December 2019. But was similarly accused of “spreading rumours”, ordered not to speak about the situation and to inform her staff that they were prohibited from publicly disclosing any information on the illness.
How does Coronavirus spread?
For some insight on how the virus spreads, check out the chart prepared by the Hong Kong Sustainable Development Research Institute based on data from the Department on Health on confirmed Coronavirus patients.
It is also found that the virus can spread through saliva droplets. In South Korea, 46 people were infected after a church official sprayed salt water into followers’ mouths but didn’t disinfect the nozzle between sprays. 9 family members in Hong Kong also became infected after sharing a hotpot and BBQ meal together.
Recently, scientists at the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences tested the effects of Coronavirus on monkeys and found it could enter the body through the eyes. They dropped a solution containing the virus into the monkey’s eyes and found that the monkeys tested positive for Coronavirus a few days later. The scientists believe the virus may have landed on conjunctiva, the tissue behind the eyelids and covering the white of the eye, before travelling down the tear duct and ending up in the upper throat. However, an infection via these means seems to be less severe than if the virus was caught through the throat. This was where the monkeys were infected by dropping the solution containing the virus into their mouths instead.
Studies from the Chinese University of Hong Kong have already confirmed that the virus could be transmitted through faeces. The usual methods of testing are through phlegm which not all patients have, or deep throat saliva- which they found many patients are unable to spit a correct specimen. And as a result of people being unable to provide proper saliva specimen, there is a 42% chance of providing a false positive. They found testing stool samples to be the most accurate, correctly finding the virus in all 14 infected patients regardless of how ill they were. Whilst 3 phlegm, nasal swab and saliva specimens from those same patients tested negative. The medical experts therefore specifically warned citizens to be careful around public toilets, as infected persons would touch the flush buttons and taps before they could wash their hands. They also warned caretakers and food handlers to be careful as they may touch the stool of their patients before delivering food, thus possibly spreading the virus.
How long does Coronavirus remain in the air or on surfaces?
The CDC found Coronavirus RNA survived up to 17 days on various surfaces in cabins of infected passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship after its occupants disembarked. Although the CDC couldn’t determine if transmission occured through these contaminated surfaces.
Meanwhile research from the National Institutes of Health, CDC, UCLA and Princeton university found that COVID-19 can last up to 3 days on plastic and stainless steel and hours in air particles. Although the amount of viruses on those surfaces would decrease over time.
Are some people more at risk?
Medical researchers in China looking at blood groups of over 2,000 patients found that those with A type blood may be more vulnerable to infection. Whilst those with type O seemed to have a much lower risk for Coronavirus. They found that of the 206 Wuhan patients that died from Coronavirus, 85 of them had type A blood. Scientists from Stanford University have published their yet to be peer reviewed study which appears to support the Chinese study that patients with type-A blood had a higher infection rate and more severe symptoms than those with type-O.
In China, the first comprehensive study of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalisations shows an increased risk for middle aged Coronavirus patients. In particular the study found that whilst the overall death rate for confirmed cases of COVID-19 was 1.38%, the death rate for those under 10 years old was 0.00016% but dramatically increased to 7.8% in 80s and over. It was also found that 4% of those in their 40s needed hospital treatment, but the figures doubled to 8% for patients in their 50s.
Can Coronavirus spread from humans to pets?
There is currently no research to support the theory that Coronavirus can be spread from humans to animals. Although in Hong Kong, a pet dog tested positive for Coronavirus after its owner was quarantined for the disease. The dog’s owner reported the dog had died 3 days after returning home from quarantine and the patient herself had recovered. However the dog’s death was said to be due to its underlying conditions and old age, rather than the disease. On 19th March 2020, a second dog– this time a German Shepard belonging to another Coronavirus patient also tested positive. However the patient’s other pet dog has so far tested negative. Both dogs did not show any symptoms of sickness. Prof. Peiris Malik of the University of Hong Kong also emphasized that based on findings so far, dogs might only get infected if they were closely associated with their infected owners, and cannot get infected by walking on the streets.
So far 2 pet cats worldwide have been tested positive for Coronavirus. The first was from Belgium and the second cat belongs to a Hong Kong resident who was also confirmed with COVID-19. The cat however is not showing any signs of the disease. There is however still no evidence that pets can be the source of the virus.
In an interview with Shelley Rankin, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, it was recommended that people limit contact with their pets, wash their hands after any contact and do not let them lick your face.
For tips on how to clean your pet dog after walks during this time, check out dog trainer Eric Ko’s instructional video (in Cantonese only).
Long term effects of Coronavirus?
Doctors in Wuhan preliminarily found that male Coronavirus patients appeared to have signs of testicle malfunction which could lead to lower sex hormone production. However this study was only on a small sample of patients and has not been peer reviewed, so it is currently not conclusive and require further investigation. The researchers intend to launch a long-term study on this. Meanwhile studies have shown that this condition can be cured through testosterone treatment.
Vaccine for the Coronavirus
Development for a vaccine for this deadly strain of Coronavirus is currently underway internationally – with China, United States and Hong Kong independently developing a vaccine.
In the US, government officials disclosed that vaccine trials will begin on 23rd March 2020. The tests will begin with giving 45 young healthy volunteers with different doses of the shots co-developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. The aim of these tests is purely to check that the vaccines do not show any significant and worrisome side effects, thereby paving the way for larger scale testing. However, it will still be quite a while before any potential vaccine is validated, and public health officials are estimating that this would only be in 1 year to 18 months’ time.
Though frankly least expected, British American Tobacco (BAT) the maker of cigarette brands such as Lucky Strike and Dunhill etc said it is developing a potential vaccine using tobacco plants. BAT also says that if testing goes well and with the right support from its partners and government agencies, manufacturing of the vaccine could begin in June 2020. They also claim that tobacco plants offer potential for faster and safer vaccine development since the plants cannot host pathogens which cause diseases in humans.
Cure for the Coronavirus
There is currently no specific medicines which would treat or prevent Coronavirus. However, in China, Japan and Thailand, doctors have used HIV drugs and sometimes combined with other medicines to treat patients who managed to recover.
In a separate study by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, it was found that the monkeys developed high antibody levels after being re-infected with Coronavirus, suggesting that their immune systems were prepared to combat the illness. This would prove extremely helpful in the race to find a vaccine.
A biomedical start-up based in Singapore and Malaysia are looking into whether Retromad1, a drug typically used to treat leukaemia and coronaviruses in cats could also be effective in treating COVID-19. Though the company reminds the public however that it is not a vaccine, so even if the drug can combat COVID-19, it cannot prevent individuals getting the disease. The company is currently looking at getting approval from the US FDA and to fast track the testing process in Singapore.
Scientists from Germany and Switzerland found that COVID-19 was more sensitive to alcohol compared to SARS and MERS, and that the virus could be killed by ethanol concentrations as low as 30%. However, the scientists pointed out that whilst whiskey, gin or other spirits have a higher alcohol than that, drinking it is NOT regarded as a way to prevent or cure Coronavirus. This is because the study found the alcohol to be effective only when it comes into contact with the virus for a prolonged period of time. So probably, as suggested by Prof. Li Zhong of the Nanjing Medical University, strong liquor can be used as an emergency disinfectant when they are no other alternative products available.
Microbiologists at the University of Hong Kong have been conducting tests in hamsters and found important information on how the virus spreads and affects the body. They found that sick hamsters passed the virus onto healthy hamsters when placed in the same cage, showing that Coronavirus can be transmitted in cages, just like in a family setting. The scientists also found that in the first 7 days of infection, the hamsters suffered severe damage to their lungs, trachea, immune system and intestines- with the situation being the worst on day 4. However after 7 days, the hamsters began to recover and their viral loads decreased. The scientists therefore suggest that the first 7 days are a crucial turning point for patients, that if they can manage their condition during this crucial period, then their condition is likely to improve afterwards. As further testing, blood serum from the recovered hamsters were taken and injected into a new hamster before infecting them. They found that the viral load of those new hamsters had decreased by 90%. Suggesting that if infected patients were given injections of blood plasma of recovered patients, it may help them recover by decreasing their viral load, adding that this method was employed in the then treatment of SARS when there was no other option.
Gene Sequencing Report
Full gene sequencing of the virus has already been completed by Chinese scientists. Full images of the virus are also shown in the image above. Corona viruses have thin cell walls covered by positive RNA strands (hence the name-sake). In a pre-released paper in BioRxiv, the group compared the genetic sequence to other known viruses and found that it is 96% similar to Bat Corona Virus and also 79.5% similar to SARS-CoV.
Previous suspicions that pangolins passed the Coronavirus to humans has also been found to be unlikely. According to the researchers from Yunnan University, they found the genetic similarities between viruses found in pangolins and Coronavirus does not meet the 99% threshold required to make the virus jump from pangolins to humans.
Full Genome of the Coronavirus
The full Genome of the virus is also available to the general public. This information is crucial for world nations to develop test kits that can positively identify the virus. Test kits are made to tag specific parts of the virus’s genome, thereby giving a positive result when bound to the virus. It is known that in China, test kits for the virus are running low on supply, thereby limiting the ability to detect the virus. Such detection is crucial for early identification and quarantine of the victim.
Mining genomes of the Coronavirus is also crucial for finding clues as to its origins. This is crucial to really stop it at its source and prevent any spillover from the current outbreak.
For a closer look at the structure of the Coronavirus, check out Dr. Gabriella Jonasson’s article.
Corona virus is spread by binding the the patients lungs. Coronavirus is seen as a huge threat because infected people can be spreading the disease without themselves exhibiting symptoms. The generally accepted prevention measures are to practice “social distancing” by reducing social contact and avoid physical contact such as shaking hands when meeting people.
Does wearing a mask prevent Coronavirus?
A major controversy in terms of prevention measures seems to be whether or not people should wear surgical masks. In Asian countries, experts such as Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, Chair of Infectious Diseases at the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong recommended in a recent interview with Cable TV News that people should continue to wear masks. This is echoed by David Hui, a respiratory medicine expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who says it’s “common sense” that wearing a mask would protect you against COVID-19.
Yet in the United States, it is discouraged to wear a mask if you are in good health. In line with the WHO, the US government recommends masks only for those who are sick, and their caregivers. The US Surgeon General has even asked the public to stop buying masks as it may reduce the supply for healthcare providers.
Interestingly, in the above interview with Dr. Yuen, he noted that as scientists and doctors, they cannot suggest people not to wear masks simply because there is inadequate supply of them. At the end of the day, there is still insufficient research on the efficacy of masks, and the difference in attitudes towards wearing them highlights the differences in culture. There are however an increasing number of experts who argue that having the general public wear masks is to shield the mouths of those who are already infected. Particularly when some patients have been observed to have contracted and cleared the virus without ever having any symptoms. For a brief list of the differing recommendations on face mask use amongst the public by various countries and the WHO see the article by Elaine Shuo Feng of the University of Oxford and others published in The Lancet.
Although it can be said that as there is no direct cure for the virus, prevention is the best defense measure against it. If you are sick, wearing a surgical mask will stop the spread of the virus as it filters coughs and prevents water particles carrying the virus from entering the air. However, surgical masks are not 100% effective in protecting the wearer – as there are holes in the mask allow unfiltered air through it. Even though its not 100% effective, surgical masks help reduce infection by preventing the wearer from touching their nose – a potential method for the virus to enter the lungs. Special masks like the N95 mask are shown to be more effective, but only if worn properly with a tight fit around the face.
Austria and the Czech Republic are making the wearing of surgical masks mandatory. In Austria, MNS masks which are below medical grade will be handed out at supermarkets from 1st April 2020 onwards. Customers will be required to keep them on whilst shopping there and the aim is that people will wear masks in public more generally as well. Meanwhile in the Czech Republic, the regulation requiring people to wear surgical masks or other mouth and nose covering apparel was already issued on 18th March 2020. Violators can be fined CZK 10,000 (equivalent to USD$402) on the spot by police.
What can communities do to stop the spread?
In terms of what societies as a whole could do, check out this study by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team. In the study, they suggested 2 non-pharmaceutical interventions which could reduce transmission amongst a population: mitigation and suppression. Based on their epidemiological modelling, they suggest that suppression methods i.e. social distancing of the entire population and closures of schools etc are required. However they predict this cannot be sustained for the lengthy periods required. Thus they suggest to have intermittent social distancing, followed by surveillance of the disease and either temporary relaxation of the measures for short periods if infected numbers drop, or reintroduction of measures when case numbers rebound.
Can you reuse masks?
According to the CDC, N95 masks can function within their design specifications for around 8 hours. In a time where N95 masks are in short supply, Stanford University’s School of Medicine’s COVID-19 Evidence Service have looked into various methods of disinfecting N95 masks for re-use. Through measuring the effectiveness of the mask against E.Coli after the tested disinfection methods, they found that placing the N95 mask in an oven at 70 degrees celsius (158 degrees fahrenheit) or exposing the mask to UV light for 30 minutes as the most effective. The least effective methods are soaking it in alcohol or chlorine based disinfectant, which affects the microfibres in N95 masks. The researchers also remind people that inhaling those chlorine fumes in the mask after disinfecting them may be harmful to the body.
What can be used as a makeshift mask?
In the same study by Stanford University, they also compared the effectiveness of various homemade masks. They found that vacuum cleaner bags to be the most effective in terms of their ability to filter virus sized particles. However the downside is that they are very hard to breathe in.
How can I make my own DIY face mask and protective gear?
A task force set up by Hong Kong’s Consumer Council in conjunction with several universities and research institutes have studied the effectiveness on DIY face masks. Based on their findings, the Consumer Council have produced a helpful instructional video on how to make your own face mask and protective gear.
You will need: 3 to 4 ply pocket/box tissues, kitchen roll, rubber bands, 2 inch wide tape, scissors, a pair of glasses, clear plastic file, plastic coated wires, binder clips and a hole puncher. The result looks like this:
Reporting on the Chinese situation
The popularity of social media in China has given rise to citizen journalists. One of the most popular of these journalists is Chen Qiushi, a lawyer who deliberately travelled to Wuhan before the lockdown to cover what’s going on. Here you can find Chen Qiushi’s YouTube channel and Twitter. However since 7th February 2020, Chen had been completely absent from social media and his whereabouts unknown. It is suspected that he is under “Residential Surveillance”.
One of his videos features an account by a Mr. Fang, another citizen journalist who was detained and his computer and laptop confiscated by authorities. Mr. Fang has also similarly stopped posting on social media and his current whereabouts are unknown.
On 18th March 2020, the Chinese government will require journalists from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post to return their press cards within 10 days- thereby preventing them from working in China. Also in an unprecedented move, the ouster of journalists from these 3 publications also includes Hong Kong and Macau. However it is unclear if this would apply to journalists with permanent residency in Hong Kong, since it would infringe freedoms guaranteed under the Basic Law. According to the head of Human Rights Watch this could be related to the COVID-19 outbreak, in particular the reporting of the Wuhan doctors who tried to warn others of the Coronavirus.
Coronavirus causing internet congestion?
With everyone stuck at home because of the outbreak the European Union has asked Netflix and other streaming services to take steps to reduce internet congestion. The EU Internal Market and Services Commissioner also in a tweet encouraged users to “#SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary”.
What’s happening at the G20 Summit?
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has asked G20 leaders to double its emergency financing capacity The funding is intended to support emerging markets and developing economies which are hard hit by the Coronavirus.
Speaking at the G20 video summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed a moratorium on sanctions relating to essential goods during the pandemic. Putin also in response to the IMF’s call proposed creating a special fund under the IMF to fight the spread of Coronavirus.
China focusing on reviving the economy
Chinese President Xi Jinping has been visiting Zhejiang province since 29th March 2020. China’s state media describes this as a clear message that China is ready to revive the economy whilst dealing with the Coronavirus, which is described as the “new normal”. During the visit, President Xi visited Ningbo, a trade hub for Eastern China accounting for over 13% of China’s foreign trade, and spoke to workers at a car parts manufacturer. Zhao Xijin, a professor of economics at Renmin University also commented that Xi’s visit is a clear signal that China is prioritising economic growth after getting domestic infections under control. And that China will keep developing its economy and opening up markets. China however may be facing challenges to this plan since China’s customers in Europe and the United States are going on lockdowns of their own, resulting in a sharp decline in demand for Chinese goods.
US Federal Reserve cuts interest rate to zero
The announcement was made on 15th March 2020 in an effort to support the economy during the pandemic, particularly as the US stock market for the first time in 11 years tumbled into a bear market. The Federal Reserve also announced it would purchase another USD $700 billion worth of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. And struck a deal with 5 other foreign banks to lower their rates on currency swaps, meaning that borrowing USD would be cheaper for banks around the world.
Which companies are still doing well despite the Coronavirus?
The stock market indices are doing surprisingly well on 17th March 2020 despite the concerns about recession. In particular, companies catering for those staying or working from home (such as Peloton Interactive Inc- up 14.83%), supermarkets, biotech etc are performing well. Whilst it goes without saying that airline companies, amusement parks, hotels and cruises (e.g. Carnival Corp-down 13.32%) are not doing very well at all.
Will there be a global recession?
Goldman Sachs downgraded its outlook for US GDP, estimating that the US economy will shrink 5% between April and June 2020. And overall growth for 2020 is forecast at 0.4%. Others predict the US economy will shrink 8% in Q2. This is combined with the bleak outlook coming from China and seeing that the situation is deteriorating in Europe with more cases of Coronavirus being reported and nation-wide shut downs.
As a result, economists warn that a global recession is already in progress, which is generally defined as when there are 2 or more consecutive quarters of falling GDP.
Will Coronavirus affect cryptocurrency and bitcoin markets?
Interviews with founders of mining pool Poolin, Distributed Computing Centre and mining device manufacturer Canaan indicate that Bitcoin markets will be affected by stock markets and the world economy.
However Arthur Hayes, CEO of Bitmex retains some optimism. Whilst he concurs that cryptocurrencies are also affected by the economic turmoil, he believes that Bitcoin may go back through USD $10,000 and towards USD $20,000 by the end of 2020.
To learn more about Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies and generally how to get started. Check out my course created with Jeff Kirdeikis of Uptrennd- Bitcademy: Learn, Invest & Trade Bitcoin – In Under an Hour
New York crypto firms required to plan for Coronavirus
On 10th March 2020, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) already required all crypto firms to submit a detailed “preparedness plan” detailing how they will manage the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak. The plan must account for all possible operational risks- such as how operations will continue when staff are absent or working remotely. As well as a plan to tackle financial risks including assessments on the impact of COVID-19 on their assets and earnings.
Will Coronavirus affect Bitcoin mining?
On 12th March 2020 prices of bitcoin dropped from USD $7,000 to USD $5,000 in a matter of 10 minutes, the largest single day drop in 5 years. At one point on 13th March 2020, the price of Bitcoin even fell to USD $3,800. Analysts believe this may mean the shutting down of older mining machines and some mines with lesser cash reserves may be forced to close. Some miners have already said they will be arranging their 90W/T and 60W/T miners to shut down as the price of Bitcoin does not make it profitable to continue.
With the upcoming Bitcoin halvening in approximately May 2020, it is likely that the impact would be greater on mining as the mining cost would double. In turn this would lead to higher demand for the newer models of mining devices and even further shutdown of miners.