High Risk: Fears Grow Coronavirus May Mutate and Spread

A new coronavirus is quickly spreading throughout China.

At the moment, 17 people have now died, with 548 confirmed infections.  The situation has become so dire the World Health Organization (WHO) may declare an international public health emergency as early as today.  Health officials are also concerned the virus could spread further during the Lunar New Year celebrations.

“China’s Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control said that while the virus does not appear to be as virulent as the one that caused a SARS — severe acute respiratory syndrome — pandemic 17 years ago, it is nonetheless ‘highly infectious,’” says NPR.

“The virus is mainly transmitted through the respiratory tract,” Li Bin, vice minister of China’s National Health Commission, which oversees the bureau, said at a Wednesday news conference of a health expert panel in Beijing. 

“It may mutate and there is risk of further spread. “We have ensured management of export channels such as temperature checks at airports, train and bus stations, and ports … And we will reduce as much as possible events with large crowds.”

According to CNN, “Tour agencies have been banned from taking groups out of Wuhan and the number of thermal monitors and screening areas in public spaces will be increased. Traffic police will also conduct spot checks on private vehicles coming in and out of the city to look for live poultry or wild animals, after the virus was linked to a seafood and live animal market.”

Virus Could Severely Impact Travel and Oil Prices

According to Goldman Sachs, the virus outbreak could shave up to $3 off oil prices thanks to a slowdown in air travel, reports CNBC.  “Using the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS as a reference case, the firm said coronavirus could cause jet fuel demand to drop by 170,000 barrels per day, with overall demand declining by 260,000 barrels per day.”

“Ultimately we expect jet fuel markets – including cracks, regrade and Asian differentials – to decline most if this outbreak persists given the likely decline in regional air travel,” Goldman analyst Damien Courvalin said in a note.