The latest outbreak in Wuhan, China, has been largely brought down by a vaccine-related overreaction on some of its poorest countries, but has flung global markets into crisis and driven airlines to suspend flights to and from the city for weeks.
In the world’s second-largest economy, where the sixth-leading cause of death in China’s vast population is thought to be from the virus, many growth prospects appear to be slipping away.
As airlines scramble to maintain flights, some have already announced suspensions. Others have lifted longer-distance restrictions. And a recent suspension of all flights to Wuhan airport caused international revulsion as sending frightened passengers back to their home countries may prove difficult.
However, there are signs that the virus – which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year – may have inadvertently backfired.
Lee Fang, deputy director of the Institute of Global Public Health Management at the University of Hong Kong (University of Hong Kong) said he believed the damage was from some parts of China to others outside China.
“There is no way to really trace the virus all the way back all the way, ” he told Reuters, referring to the 12 provinces that extend from China’s southern border, where infections in the region started to rise in October.
Fang said most of the virus cases are spread across levels in Wuhan in small communities, but in his view that critical vulnerabilities are concentrated in the few districts that included Wuhan in the initial outbreak.
Appearing with Reuters in Beijing, Fang said he was encouraged that some airlines had come back to normal operations.
“I think the virus will not be the big worry for the airlines, ” he said, adding that even if health regulations were relaxed surgically and everything was stopped by the end of the week, the virus would still spread around the world tomorrow morning.
China was the origin of last month’s outbreak in Wuhan, triggering a domino effect with no country to just three short hours away, like in July when Thailand and Cambodia reported no new cases.
Independent experts in the field of infectious diseases believe the syndemic is likely to spread to other countries and territories, local media reported.
People who survived China’s first outbreak in Wuhan are able to go home, with some assistance, but people in Wuhan worry about the effects of the virus.
Local authorities would like to have people identified and quarantined before Christmas to prevent local clusters from spreading to other countries.
To date, China has reported 7, 371 cases of the H5N1 strain of coronavirus, mostly in and around Wuhan.
The Chinese government announced on Wednesday a $62 million stimulus package worth more than 1. 8 trillion yuan ($130 billion) to contain the outbreak, but the package expires at the end of August.
Fang said while the China National Biotec Group Co Ltd (CNBG) had completed production of its vaccine candidate, it would be Huangdu Pharmaceutical, a local brand, that could become a stand-in for the CNBG brand – it did not provide details.
The CNBG spokesman did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.
In Hong Kong, a popular holiday destination, people who returned from Wuhan to the city from other countries must self-isolate for 14 days.
Hong Kong imposed a 14-day lockdown on Wuhan on Friday, after the southern-controlled city was allocating more hospital beds to combat a second wave of the coronavirus.
Budget airliner flights to the city were halted until at least May 9 as authorities urged people to stay at home and at least two adjacent islands to block a reopening of trade.
Kuok Chung, the communications secretary of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy government, said the measure would not be enforced, but added the measures may start again once a new strain emerged.
Under the measures, people arriving by land would have to spend two consecutive weeks in quarantine.
On Friday, the city suspended all non-essential public outings and also barred entrance for all people with a temperature above 41. 6 Celsius (99. 4 Fahrenheit). Kowloon, the former British colony that includes Wuhan, has been hard hit by the surge in local cases.
However, the energy hub has managed to contain the virus in confined areas, with only a few cases on its southern coast.
China has reported 382 cases of the virus, with four deaths. Last week, a judge rejected a bid by the city government to extend the temporary ban on public gatherings until the end of May.