Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Busting the myth by looking at the facts

coronavirus picture

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A digital illustration of the coronavirus shows the crown-like appearance of the virus. (UN News)

Finally, some good news about the new coronavirus pneumonia outbreak (COVID-19). According to Reuters, China’s National Health Commission reported a substantial drop of 77% in new coronavirus cases last week, as the number of new cases in China dropped last Wednesday to 394 from 1,749 on the previous day. According to CNN’s most recent report, indeed the coronavirus situation is currently stabilising in China.

In addition, researchers from the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia have announced their major breakthrough in developing the first coronavirus vaccine. More good news comes from Texas, US, whereby an American genetic engineering company reports it has completed the development of a coronavirus vaccine. Other multinational drug companies like Sanofi and Janssen are entering the race of developing the vaccine. Moreover, China’s Vice Science and Technology Minister Xu Nanping stated that China is starting trials on its coronavirus vaccine in a month’s time from now.

Is the coronavirus more deadly than Ebola, SARS, MERS? On the contrary, COVID-19 has the lowest fatality rate compared to other deadly viruses. According to the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, while the new coronavirus pneumonia has a case fatality rate (CFR) of 2.65%, Ebola has a CFR as high as 50%, MERS has a CFR of 34.4% and SARS has a CFR of 14-15%. Hence, coronavirus shouldn’t be compared even to the rest as the fatality rate is much lower. Unfortunately, the latter isn’t stressed in the news headlines whatsoever, simply because fearmongering and sensationalism is something that other media do for a living. Also, factual data like the low fatality rate of COVID-19 would stop the panic and result in a more realistic approach to the coronavirus outbreak, which could lead pop media to lose pop readership.

Besides, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the official EU Agency, which provides daily updates on the coronavirus, clearly stipulates about today that “the risk associated with COVID-19 infection for people from the EU/EEA and UK is currently considered to be low to moderate.”

What is the real reason behind this overly exaggeration of the press about COVID-19?

Since the outbreak of coronavirus in December 2019 in China’s Hubei province, the world has been witnessing an increase in coronavirus cases with approximately 80,000 people being infected around the world. China’s government has already taken emergency measures to contain the expansion of the disease like controlling the movement of people in the Hubei province or building a new large hospital to treat the coronavirus cases in a matter of days.

Nevertheless, during the first two months of 2020 the world has been taking some exaggerated measures against China like cancelling/blocking flights to/from China which refer to both transfers of people and goods. And all that despite the fact that the World Health Organization has been adamant that such measures are not recommended.

In addition, the world’s press has been extremely critical over the strict isolation measures taken by China to confine the outbreak. They also blamed China for violating human rights. At the same time in Italy these days entire villages and towns in the northern part of the country are completely quarantined by the Italian government. Consequently, the latter shows that what China does for the Hubei province is nothing more than standard emergency prevention measure to be taken by a country.

Moreover, as a result of fearmongering by the media through the omission of facts like for example the low fatality rate of the coronavirus, people tend to have a racist approach against Chinese citizens who are living or traveling outside China. Isn’t it utterly unfair though and absolutely wrong to assimilate the few dozens of thousands of coronavirus cases with the 1.4 billion population of a country?

As regards the coronavirus’ impact on the second biggest economy of the world, besides the opportunistic approach by many markets to capitalise on this emergency with hostility, it seems that the economy is not dearly affected as gamblers would hope. In particular, the Ambassador of China to the EU has been recently reassuring on the matter: “With business activities deferred and demand for services reduced, there is some impact on the Chinese economy. Yet the impact is limited, short-term and manageable. The epidemic will not change the positive prospects of the Chinese economy in the long term, the huge market demand offered by the 1.4 billion Chinese people, nor China’s commitment to reform and opening-up. There is no need for global investors to worry too much.”

All in all, while the coronavirus is surely a new challenge for the world in 2020, it is much needed that the world’s media maintain a balanced approach, discussing the coronavirus outbreak objectively without tactically losing interest from positive evolutions and news like the vaccination development achievements, the low fatality rate of the disease or the drop in the cases in China or effective responses. The latter is necessary to avoid that people panic. Besides, WHO has established a specific website to inform people and media about the coronavirus, which is based on facts, a sine qua non for journalism as it should be.

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