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Coronavirus fangs dig deeper globally, huge disruption ahead

At extremes, civil unrest can result in looting and a breakdown in law and order.

Coronavirus fangs dig deeper globally, huge disruption ahead
Photo: AFP

NEW DELHI: The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is likely to be declared a pandemic and focus is now shifting from China to South Korea, Iran, Italy and Japan — where cases are escalating fast, even Germany, Brazil and several others have joined the list, a new report said on Friday.

The big worry is: Despite initial failings in recognising and reporting the novel coronavirus, China has been quite effective at limiting people’s movement and, therefore, the spread of the virus.

It now seems other countries may have been less successful at containing the outbreaks.

“As China is the manufacturing source for N-95 facemasks, supplies for export will be restricted. India likewise is restricting exports of facemasks. Some drugs are also likely to become supply-constrained,” said Peter Richardson Research Director, Counterpoint Research.

Global stock markets are, perhaps belatedly, responding to the escalating impact of the coronavirus outbreak and have started falling on expectations of extended and systematic supply chain disruption.

“Oil prices are also lower on fears that transport will be affected. Traditional safe haven assets, such as gold, have increased in price,” said Richardson.

Developed nations have vulnerable supply chains and any breakdown in supplies can lead to panic buying, shortages and further disruption to travel and many normal behaviours at a population level.

At extremes, civil unrest can result in looting and a breakdown in law and order.

In South Korea, a spike in cases and lack of clarity among potentially infected people’s movements will lead to more cases developing over the next week or two.

“Containment currently looks challenging despite the alert level being raised to RED,” said Richardson.

In Iran, even the health minister has been infected.

“Cases likely under-reported and given the importance of some infected areas to Muslim tourists, there is high likelihood of spread to other Muslim nations in the region,” the report mentioned.

The UK has now started testing people showing flu-like symptoms but who have not been to known infected areas. If infection is found it will indicate that the viral spread has not been contained.

In the US, it is likely that the true extent of cases is unknown and unreported due to lack of screening on ports of entry, lack of sufficient diagnostic testing and lack of funding to health agencies to take effective action.

“Increased testing, like in the UK, will reveal to the extent to which the viral spread has already occurred,” the report added.

Overall, widespread transmission of the disease and a concomitant impact on retail sales, supply chain disruption and other economic disturbance has risen from somewhat unlikely to likely.

“Companies will need to plan for an extended period of disruption to a business-as-usual situation e likely lasting well into the second quarter,” said Richardson.

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