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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Crippled by coronavirus?

31 January 2020

Yes, the coronavirus is shaping up (in the media at least) to be a biggie.

We're seeing quarantines go into effect, border biosecurity ramped up and facemasks becoming the aparel de jour throughout Asia, as a result of a pandemic fear.

In true Chinese style, 1,000 bed hospitals are being built from scratch in just a few short days and the area where the outbreak began is effectively now a ghost-town.

As with most things like this, the media has had a field-day, turning tragedy into clickbait and hyping all the fear, uncertainty and doubt into just another form of entertainment.

However, let's just suppose for a moment that this thing really does take off and become the 21st century's equivalent of the Spanish flu. What could the real effects be outside of China?

Well outside of the pharmaceutical and medial industries, this could hammer the world's economy.

There has already been a marked effect on tourism, apparently.

I guess nobody wants to sit in an airliner, along with one hundred or more other people, in the full and certain knowledge that if any one of those people has an undiagnosed case of coronavirus, you could be the next victim.

Then there is the position China plays in the world's economy.

Look around your house, your business, your office and you'll find that a surprisingly high percentage of the tools, chattels and consumables you use are all made in China. If the internal economy of China is crippled by a sweeping disease such as this, exports will slow to a trickle, or stop completely.

Western businesses reliant on imports from China will find themselves in a very difficult place as turnovers plunge and profits become losses, almost overnight.

Today's world is far more reliant on international trade than the one which was ravaged by the Spanish flu more than a century ago. This represents a significant vulnerability and could see a huge recession looming.

What's more, when people find themselves out of a job it becomes much harder to stay well nourished and healthy -- factors that are essential to fighting the virus if you are unfortunate enough to contract it.

For my part, I've checked that the cupboards are stocked with a few weeks of canned/dried food and sufficient bottled water to provide some isolation from the outside world if that becomes absolutely necessary but I'm still thinking/hoping that this will be like SARs and various Swineflu variants that have also had the potential to cripple the world.

With luck and sound management, this whole thing will likely be over by the end of summer.

As a footnote, I have discovered today just how hard it is to type with crossed fingers.

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