Global Intelligence Briefing March 9, 2020: Coronavirus management

By Chris Woods

March 9, 2020

Welcome to Global Intelligence Briefing, The Mandarin’s morning update on everything in local and global government responses to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

How effective is airport screening?

With airports across the globe enacting exit and entry screening for COVID-19 — i.e. scanning passengers with thermometers or requiring health declarations — a new Science article points to some of the current and historic ways travellers “slip through the net”: for example, eight passengers who later tested positive went unnoticed through screeners on Italy-Shanghai flight.

COVID-19 or influenza?: A WHO guide

With COVID-19 presenting similar respiratory symptoms to influenza — and Australia just about to enter flu season — it’s timely that WHO has, in its Friday situation report, directly compared the two, with speed, reproductive rate, and severity of infection just some of the main differences.

While scientists are still unpacking with the COVID-19 is more infectious than even the SARS virus, Seattle researchers speaking with Nature unpack how a protein on its surface could be what makes it spread easier.

Soap pics of the day

Scientists, as they’re wont to do, proffered some excellent data over the weekend on the usefulness of handwashing for arresting slow viral pandemics.

The BBC’s “Contagion!” modelled what a hypothetical pandemic would look like if everyone in the UK washed their hands 5-10 times a day.

As Business Insider reports, UK math professor Hannah Fry examines the current push within the context of a nationwide citizen science experiment she led as part of “Contagion!”, a 2018 BBC documentary on the 1918 flu pandemic.

Secondly, if you’re in the mood for a hell of a thread, check out UNSW chemist Palli Thordarson’s explanation of how soap and, reportedly to a lesser extent, disinfectants work to dissolve a virus’ outer membrane and “deactivate” the inner agent.


North Korea cuts off its nose to spite its face

While Italy may be in the process of quarantining roughly 16 million people, North Korea finds itself the first country to effectively self-quarantine; even by its standards, the country has been aggressively isolationist, suspending international flights, severing its rail link with China, and implementing quarantine procedures at its Nampo port.

Now, with the only official way in and out of North Korea being a road crossing with China, a US humanitarian official has told Science that the restrictions in Nampo — along with compounding policies in Dalian, China — have severely delayed cargo containers of first-line tuberculosis drugs.

No one likes to be told “I told you so”

Researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Risk and Foresight Group have written in Politico about having modelled a fictional pandemic — one with strikingly similar global repercussions to coronavirus — last October, and, regrouping in March, how their renewed study ends with the following four insights:

  • early and preventative actions are critical;
  • communication is vital — but a decline in trust makes it harder;
  • international cooperation is key; and
  • the private sector will be vital to managing the outbreak (specifically, and for better or worse, pharmaceutical companies in the US)

Podcast watch

Finally, for a deep, depressing, but vital listen, check out Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch explaining his prediction of between 40-70% of the global adult population becoming infected with the virus in ‘The Coronavirus Isn’t Going Away‘, the 28 February episode of the Deep Background with Noah Feldman podcast.

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