Tag: laboratory

Covid and the great Chinese fib

Health and wellbeing

Here’s what we’re being told. That the virus originated in the wild, that a bat was probably the host animal for the virus and that it was transmitted to humans via the scally anteater known as a #pangolin. From there folks in #Wuhan, #China were infected and from them the virus spread to the world.

This might have happened.

Speculating though is both fun and sometimes rewarding and with that in mind we’ll have a little look at some basic figures and see if that explanation makes sense.

Pangolin in the wild
A pangolin, an endangered species gobbled up by some Chinese people as a delicacy.

In Wuhan is a French built #laboratory that was set up to investigate the very family of viruses Covid19 is a part of. Now for numbers, many scientists now believe that the incubation period of #Covid19 is about 5 days, others remain of the view that that it could be up to 11. The actual “R” (reproduction) rate of the virus is unknown. This is because many people, around 20% with Covid are asymptomatic, that is they have no symptoms of the disease. Another group, approximately 80% of those with symptoms have symptoms so mild they don’t require treatment and in some cases remain unaware that they are infected.

When an outbreak takes place local governments act to reduce the spread of the virus. When they do this R quickly drops to around 1.5, once the population begins to actively cooperate with the local government it drops further and begins to die out. In a population that is unaware of the threat and is taking no precautions R is much higher. For the reasons given above there is currently no accurate value for R in a “virgin” population. Scientists suggest values in the range between 4 and 12. For today’s exercise we’ll set an upper limit of 8.

What we’re attempting to estimate is when the Chinese government would have been aware of the initial virus outbreak and when would they have commenced actions to deal with it. For the purpose of this we’ll assume an average of four days between infection and symptoms manifesting themselves sufficiently to require medical attention. So this is how it works we compare R with the incubation period to estimate how many infections take place before significant numbers of patients became hospitalised/require treatment. Once people start to require treatment we can assume that the Chinese government would have been in a position to act.

R = 1.5R = 4R = 8
4 days8102532,769
11 days13916,777,21668,719,476,737
4 (8) days+39262,145134,217,729
11 (15) days+6554,294,967,297To high to be meaningful
Numbers initially infected with Covid19 with incubation values of 4 and 11 days and R values of 1.5, 4 and 8. Last two rows assume four days between infection and symptoms manifesting sufficiently for hospital admission (all figures rounded down)

When we do this we see ridiculously high figures. Assuming that the Chinese authorities acted divisively and effectively after only 11 days from the very first infection and assuming a R of only 4 we see that there are already sixteen million potential infections. Of course one person can be infected multiple times from different sources and not everyone will infect 4 others but all the same the figure has to be reasonably accurate.

And now we’re getting to the nub of the problem. China says that it’s only had 86,000 infections. Even if they’re only counting people with symptoms requiring hospitalisation this number is far to low to be credible, that’s their numbers for over a year.

So we’re left with the inescapable conclusion that China has fibbed. Either they’re not telling the truth about numbers, which is possible, they may be looking to stop a mad panic and promote the great never failing story that is China under communism or they’re fibbing about the source.

If China was fibbing about the source and they knew the source then they may have been able to intervene at a much earlier stage. Numbers of infections could be limited and the effects abroad would be as we see them today. How could China have acted at an earlier stage though if symptoms hadn’t had the chance to become manifest?

Coronavirus the laboratories in Wuhan built by the French
The Wuhan virus factory built by the French

The answer is that if the Virus came not from that bat doing naughty things with a pangolin but instead came from the Wuhan virus factory then we can only assume that the Chinese authorities would well have been aware of the escape; and being aware act at a this very early stage intervene and limit infections to those we’ve seen. Such an explanation even more than any other explains why the Chinese tried to hide details about the virus from the world and the efforts they put into persuading the WHO from taking steps to investigate the matter.

The Dormouse would be the first to agree that there’s a lot of speculation in the above but he’s also surprised that no one else has raised the subject.