The Birth of a Pandemic: Inside the first months of the coronavirus outbreak

JMD Systemics Advice and Guidance for Small Businesses

The Huanan seafood wholesale market in central Wuhan is that kind of place where people often caught colds.Vendors start setting up their displays as early as 03:00 a.m., cleaning and preparing produces for the customers that will soon be there early morning.

The sprawling market of more than twenty streets spanned two sides of a main road in an upscale neighbourhood of the commercial district of Hankou. Racks of meat are hung on hooks or dropped out on plastic mats. Workers walk around selling everything from live poultry to seafood and cooking ingredients. It is a crowded but clean market.

In mid-December 2019, when one of the workers felt unwell, he thought little of it. He stayed home to rest but after losing over ten pounds in just a few days, he decided to go to a general hospital for a basic check-up. From there, on December 19, he was sent and admitted in an hospital specializing in the treatment of infectious diseases.

This worker could not have known then that he was among the first cases of a new, highly contagious coronavirus that would soon kill more than 2,500 people in his city and engulf the world.

He thought he had a cold.

In early November and December 2019, the number of coronavirus infections began cropping up in Wuhan and, it is only in late January 2020 that the Chinese authorities informed the public that the virus could pass between humans.

Human-to-human transmission

By the end of December 2019, word had gotten out in Wuhan about a mystery illness.

On December 30, internet users circulated screenshots of a WeChat conversation, in which a doctor at Wuhan Red Cross hospital, warned his colleagues of confirmed cases of a contagious coronavirus at another hospital. “Wash your hands! Face masks! Gloves!” the doctor wrote.

That same day, on December 30, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital told a WeChat group that seven people at his hospital had contracted what he believed to be SARS, the outbreak that killed more than six hundred people in mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-03.

Also on December 30 , an “urgent notice” from the Wuhan Health Commission warning of “successive cases of unknown pneumonia” was leaked and posted online. The statement ordered hospitals to “strengthen responsible leadership” and ensure that no one “disclose information to the public without authorisation.”

Under growing pressure, on December 31, the Wuhan Health Commission, in its first official notice about the virus, said that researchers were investigating twenty-seven cases of viral pneumonia.

There is “no obvious evidence of human-to-human transmission,” the statement said, describing the outbreak as linked to the seafood market and assuring the public that all patients had been quarantined and their contacts placed under observation. “The disease is preventable and controllable,” it added.

A day later, on January 1, the Huanan seafood market was closed and Wuhan’s Public Security bureau announced that eight people had been “punished” for spreading rumours.

Authorities also tasked hospitals to screen for pneumonia cases linked to the market and it wasn’t until January 20 that vendors in the market were asked to submit to temperature checks and blood tests.

Things are getting out of control

Across the Yangtze River, some 6 kilometres away, people who had never been to the market were falling sick and things went rapidly out of control. By the time officials revealed the infectiousness of the virus, hospitals in Wuhan were already overwhelmed and the numbers increased after the announcement.

On January 23, in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people was placed under lockdown.

Surrounding areas followed, putting a total of more than 50 million people under de-facto home quarantine and by February 19, in the death toll from the virus had passed 2,000.

The rest is history.

Today, while China and Wuhan are coming back to life, most countries of the world are fighting a global pandemic that may have easily been avoided. In the western word, people are dying by the hundreds of thousands and the Global Economy is crashing down.

Large corporations will most certainly survive but what about the small businesses? What about your own business?

The global dramatic economic slowdown is already disrupting trade flows and creating unemployment that will damage our society at levels that are hard to forecast and grim to contemplate. What does it means for you?

The reality is that we are now facing a Global Economic Recession. The Covid-19 pain will long persist after all social distancing measures and lockdowns end.

Undercapitalized businesses affected by the shutdowns now realize a grim reality: Recovery will not be that easy! In these difficult times, for the duration of the pandemic .

Michel Ouellette, ll.l., ll.m.

Business Growth Strategist

JMD Systemics

Systemic Strategic Planning / Crisis & Reputation Management

Skype: jmdlive


Michel Ouellette / Joseph Michael Dennis, is a former attorney, a Trial Scientist, a Crisis & Reputation Management Expert, a Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Specialist, a Warrior for Common Sense and Free Speech.

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