2019–20 Wuhan coronavirus outbreak: What to expect and what to plan?

2020-01-28

While I'm writing this article, the number of people who are infected by the 2019-nCoV virus is still growing rapidly in China; a completely new hospital is under construction in Wuhan City which can host 2300 patients and is scheduled to be completed in 6 days from start to finish. The city government of Shanghai has just announced today that the businesses cannot be back to normal before 10.02 and the school holidays will extend to 17.02, there is so much informations around on this subject which is submerging social media, that I regularly receive many calls and messages from my friends and clients, some sends me video links and images asking me what's really going on in China because some of those videos or images really look horrible.

Although I'm not a doctor or medical expert, I though that it could make sense to  regularly write a summary to explain my view(more from the business perspective)on what is happening in China, what is going to happen moving forward and what can be done if you have a strong business connection to China.

First of all, what is happening in China. Since it was first reported on 16.12.2020, as of 27 January 2020, there were 2,886 confirmed cases of infection, of which 2,825 were within mainland China.The number of deaths was 81 as of 27 January 2020.Human-to-human spread was confirmed in Guangdong, China, on 20 January 2020.

2019-nCoV belongs to the broad family of viruses known as coronaviruses.Other coronaviruses are capable of causing illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), but only six were previously known to infect people; 2019-nCoV make it seven.

When talking to my friends in China, I understand that the concerns are as following:

  1. Human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed. Reports emerge that the virus is infectious even during the incubation period which can take up to 2 weeks  prior to symptom onset. Most of my friends have decide to stay at their homes during the whole spring festival. The real challenge will start once people need to go back to work and to school.
  2. No specific treatment is currently available, so treatment is focused on alleviation of the symptoms. Although several organizations and institutions began work on creating vaccines for the Wuhan coronavirus based on the published genome, it could still take some time before the vaccines are available and approved for clinical use.

When talking to professionals, many of whom also had experience fighting SARS back to 2003, most of them are still confident in being able to get the situation under control, this is mainly due to the following reasons:

  1. The virus cannot stay alive for a long time after leaving the host, which means, that if people use proper protective measures such as the face mask and protective glasses, the infection rate should remain quite low.
  2. Among the infected patients, 57 of them are already cured, the current fatality rate of the disease is not very high even compared to people who died from a normal flu.
  3. China has accumulated a lot of good experience fighting the SARS and is now putting all the measures to deal with the Wuhan coronavirus in a very timely manner
  4. The technologies have developed a lot between 2003 and now, especially on the diagnostic and drug development side, so we have good reason to believe that scientists will have some solutions soon to deal with the virus effectively
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For all my readers who may have a strong business connection with China, now that you have an overview of what is going on, now let me share my view on what can be expected and planned moving forward:

  1. If you already scheduled some business trips to China, I suggest that you shall consider to postponing your trips for at least 3 months and see if the situation will be under control by then. If you decide to go now, it might be really complicated for you and your team to organise the local logistics and accommodations during your stay. The customers and business partners may not be in the right mood to discuss about business with you face to face and you may need to be self-quarantined for 14 days once you return to your home country.
  2. As China might be an important market for you, and since the chaos is likely to last for a while, it's also not wise to leave the customers, your team and/or your business partners alone. Many things can still be planned and executed:

There’s an old saying that companies shall focus on sales in a good year and marketing in a weak year. In the next few months, it could be a golden opportunity for you to close the gaps with your competitors, since some of their projects will be pending for a whole, you can use your time beneficially to locate the projects, to get your product and technology known to the potential user and try to turn the game around.

Also, the customers will have more time for you, instead of been busy all the time, they will also spend more time in the office and it really depends on you to have some very high quality discussions with them, to prepare all the information they will need to put your products in their budget pipeline.

·      It will also be a very good opportunity to improve the capability of your local team in China as well as your business partners, so they can better perform once the chaos is over, I'm pretty sure that there will be a market boom especially for the life science market so it's better to be well prepared.

I hope the above article can provide you some useful information dealing with the current Wuhan coronavirus outbreak in China from the business perspective.

The Chinese people will be glad to know that they have all your support while going through the very difficult situation right now. 武汉加油!

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