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The Stationmaster

Corona-virus - Impact of the Health Situation worldwide

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Let me say right from the outset that this is not an intention to express concern about 'my model' but a more general question about the wider non-health and economic implications of what is being reported as a worrying situation in China.  What does seem relatively clear is that a virus newly introduced to humans is causing the Chinese authorities massive concern with worryingly high numbers of people infected and considerable restrictions on movement around the country in an attempt to reduce the spread of illness.  In my opinion from what we know the Chinese authorities are to be commended for being prepared to take very firm steps to restrict movement around their country in a bid to mitigate spread of the virus.

 

However on the other side of the coin their country nowadays firmly occupies what was very much once upon a time a British claim to be ' the workshop of the world' with a large amount of the world's manufacturing capacity,  principally of consumer goods, lodged in that country.  Already there may well be an impact on the labour force depending on who was where in relation to the areas of employment when movement was curtailed.  Similarly with movement curtailed it seems probable that goods might not be able to reach the ports.  And even if they do can they be shipped out?

 

This in turn will presumably react on many Chinese businesses as they lose markets or cash flow.  Thus far the Chinese Govt seems prepared to accept such a situation perhaps in the hope that it will be no worse than the usual CNY interruption to trade and that its longer term impact on trade will be limited, especially as they are already reportedly looking to alter the emphasis of the economy away from manufacturing.  This must undoubtedly pose questions for the western world as it provides comprises a large proportion of the customer base for Chinese goods and raises the interesting question if it can adapt quickly enough to a change of circumstances in China?    For example - albeit a slightly odd one - we recently needed a new teapot and had considerable difficulty in finding one but eventually finished up with one made in China - we simply couldn't find a equal, sensibly priced, alternative.

 

I do not doubt that other countries could emerge to replace or relieve the manufacturing capacity of China but it does seem to have bought a particular flair and range of skills to consumer goods manufacture which might not exist elsewhere and prices might rise anyway.  Yes, it does obviously have some relevance to model railways and perhaps even to the viability or even existence of some familiar names in the hobby market, which is why I have offered to this section of the forum.   But it clearly has a far, far, wider significance than just to our little bubble of consumerism.  But regrettably if the virus has a potential to spread causing worldwide infection on a large scale we shall no doubt be in a position where the last thing any of us will be thinking about are hobbies and consumer goods.

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A thought provoking piece,  thanks. Its not often that one thinks about manufacturing capacity and the economics, in relation to a pandemic of the proportions that this may develop into, one hopes that the isolation measures implemented by the government bear fruit in containing it. But I wonder how they are going to get essential supplies into the affected areas, as I don't think the problem going to go away any time soon.

 

 

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I saw on TV today one town (probably the main infected one, (I wasn't taking too much notice), where basically there is NO transport at all - public or private. I think walking may also have been stopped? Residents basically have been trapped for 5 days, so where is their food supply coming from? And how are the shops being re-stocked if they actually sell any goods? One presumes then that the authorities would then deliver - but transport (ie human movement) is banned. How do they move on from this situation. Worrying thoughts, and sympathy to all.

 

Stewart

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Interesting that they can build a new hospital in weeks instead of years.  Needs must. 

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3 hours ago, The Stationmaster said:

...if the virus has a potential to spread causing worldwide infection on a large scale we shall no doubt be in a position where the last thing any of us will be thinking about are hobbies and consumer goods.

The important bit is not to panic. It might be like SARS - another coronavirus - which mutated into a relatively benign form. On the other hand, it might prove to be 'Packham's Panacea'. There was large scale and much needed social progress after the 'Great Pestilence': there's upside in even the worst case...

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I suspect that the important thing here will prove to be that the disease is apparently believed to have a 14-day incubation period. The measures that the Chinese have taken, notably the mandatory wearing of masks, may well largely contain any further spread of the disease, especially as experts here say that it isn't particularly contagious. Numbers of cases, and, sadly, deaths, will obviously rise for at least a few days, but we may well then see the situation stabilise. The laboratory at UC Leuven here was optimistic today that an effective vaccine can be developed very quickly too, seemingly as a spin-off to all the work that has been going on to create a longterm flu vaccine.

 

I too was rather impressed by the speed with which a new hospital is being created, perhaps the Chinese should be asked to take over the HS2 project.

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My stepson is working in Yibin which is not very far from the problem areas - worrying times for his mum (my Mrs), I'm calmer about it at the moment, he's young, fit and healthy so should be ok - fingers crossed.

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5 hours ago, Colin_McLeod said:

Interesting that they can build a new hospital in weeks instead of years.  Needs must. 

 

3 hours ago, bécasse said:

I too was rather impressed by the speed with which a new hospital is being created, perhaps the Chinese should be asked to take over the HS2 project.

 

Please remember China is a communist country.  Democracy is terrible if you want things done - all those pesky rules and judges getting in the way - and of course the need to be 'popular' at election time.

 

As with all other communist countries, if the Chinese communist party says "we commandeer this space to build a hospital" then thats the end of the matter - no compensation to owners  (other than what the party itself decides to pay) or discussions over planning permission needed.

 

Similarly with the bits to make it - the party says "right those modular walls, bricks, doors, etc you have for your building projects re immediately requisitioned for use to build a new hospital."

 

The same goes for the army of labourers needed to build it - don't let the capitalist trappings fool you - if the party says "you must go and build a hospital" then that is what will happen.

 

As is normal in Communist societies, those who resist will face sanctions, fines, arbitrary arrest, etc while at the same time the state propaganda will extol the virtues of those working to build the hospital.

 

Don't let China fool you - for all its apparent charm it remains a deeply repressive regime which is only able to do lots of the things is does because it tramples all over those who do not 'confirm' to what the ruling Communist party tells them. If you don't then... https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/resources/idt-sh/China_hidden_camps

 

So while we might well praise Chinas swift response to the outbreak - the fact remains that they can only react as fast as they have done because they are a repressive state that tramples over basic human rights. That rather takes the sheen off things....


 

Edited by phil-b259
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In this case stopping the virus is THE important thing.  Better "conscription" of builders to fight a disease than conscription into a war.

Edited by Colin_McLeod
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9 minutes ago, Colin_McLeod said:

In this case stopping the virus is THE important thing.  Better "conscription" of builders to fight a disease than conscription into a war.

 

Oh indeed - but the only reason they can 'conscript' the builders is precisely because they can also 'conscript them for war.

 

Were the peacetime UK (or indeed any other democracy) facing a similar threat, trampling over people, business and law would not happen.

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I'll be interested to see how many Chinese students make it to the UK after Chinese New Year. Start teaching Wednesday. Should I ask 'hands up who's come from Wuhan?' Probably none,,,

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3 hours ago, Colin_McLeod said:

Interesting that they can build a new hospital in weeks instead of years.  Needs must. 

 

But lets not call it a hospital  - that is almost the sort of thing some with an agenda may say.

We could, and maybe should, call it a large emergency isolation unit, which is what it is.

Having been involved both directly and indirectly in the "building of hospitals" from the early nineties for twenety years I may dare to suggest that a hospital is just a bit more than a lot of beds and doctors in a huge room......

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8 hours ago, The Stationmaster said:

However on the other side of the coin their country nowadays firmly occupies what was very much once upon a time a British claim to be ' the workshop of the world' with a large amount of the world's manufacturing capacity,  principally of consumer goods, lodged in that country.  Already there may well be an impact on the labour force depending on who was where in relation to the areas of employment when movement was curtailed.  Similarly with movement curtailed it seems probable that goods might not be able to reach the ports.  And even if they do can they be shipped out?

 

Chinese NY is a 3 week event (even though the official holiday is normally only about a week), so there is still lots of time for the Chinese officials to get things under control before there much of an impact - though apparently the official holiday has been extended by about a week.

 

Given that it is CNY nothing was being shipped out anyway, so at least for the time being that is a non-issue.

 

8 hours ago, The Stationmaster said:

This in turn will presumably react on many Chinese businesses as they lose markets or cash flow.  Thus far the Chinese Govt seems prepared to accept such a situation perhaps in the hope that it will be no worse than the usual CNY interruption to trade and that its longer term impact on trade will be limited, especially as they are already reportedly looking to alter the emphasis of the economy away from manufacturing.

 

Unlike most western governments, the Chinese government has more options in dealing with the economic fallout of situations like this.  The government has both more money (hence why they are so busy building stuff around the world) and the singular vision to implement things (or, the lack of an opposition to oppose).

 

Unless this ends up really getting out of control, the effects are likely to be minor compared to the effects the Chinese economy has suffered as a result of Trump's trade war.

 

8 hours ago, The Stationmaster said:

This must undoubtedly pose questions for the western world as it provides comprises a large proportion of the customer base for Chinese goods and raises the interesting question if it can adapt quickly enough to a change of circumstances in China?

 

If the unthinkable happens and China is no longer an option, then there will be a very extended period of upheaval - just look at the inability/unwillingness of US companies to leave China (with a few exceptions) given the current trade war.

 

8 hours ago, The Stationmaster said:

I do not doubt that other countries could emerge to replace or relieve the manufacturing capacity of China but it does seem to have bought a particular flair and range of skills to consumer goods manufacture which might not exist elsewhere and prices might rise anyway.

 

I wonder just how true this is - we have after all for 5 to 10 years now been hearing about the problems of rising wages in China, yet so far there doesn't seem to be much movement out of China.

 

Perhaps it is a case, that as companies look elsewhere in Asia or Africa, the combination of stable government, a singularly motivated government, and an educated and skilled workforce will be difficult to replace.

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3 hours ago, bécasse said:

I too was rather impressed by the speed with which a new hospital is being created, perhaps the Chinese should be asked to take over the HS2 project.

 

Want to guess how many building code and other violations will happen and be ignored?

 

Or how suitable for public use the building will be in 3 years let alone the next 40 to 100?

 

As other have said, in an emergency when you are willing to spend the money (reports of workers being paid 3x their normal wage), force things, etc. you can get things done for the immediate need.   But that isn't how you build things you want to use long term.

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A friend left for China 48 hours ago. Glynis is 70, and her Facebook page is forever filled with whatever sniffle, flu or galloping fever she is suffering from today, but after a good deal of ditherage she decided seeing her new - second - grandson in that country is more important than staying healthy it seems. Her son lives quite some way from Wuhan, but the CNY migration had already started before the clampdown, I think, so she is risking things. Husband Bob is staying home with Morgan the cat - and the current rebuild of his model railway.

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just had a Company Email " Travel Advisory" not to travel to China.., I'll stay sitting in my little lab anyway..

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9 hours ago, phil-b259 said:

 

Were the peacetime UK (or indeed any other democracy) facing a similar threat, trampling over people, business and law would not happen.

 

And the disease would spread out of control.

 

 

 

6 hours ago, mdvle said:

 

Want to guess how many building code and other violations will happen and be ignored?

 

Or how suitable for public use the building will be in 3 years let alone the next 40 to 100?

 

As other have said, in an emergency when you are willing to spend the money (reports of workers being paid 3x their normal wage), force things, etc. you can get things done for the immediate need.   But that isn't how you build things you want to use long term.

 

An emergency structure has nothing to do with long term use.

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11 hours ago, phil-b259 said:

...Were the peacetime UK (or indeed any other democracy) facing a similar threat, trampling over people, business and law would not happen.

 

1 hour ago, Colin_McLeod said:

And the disease would spread out of control.

I offer you the UK's  foot and mouth disease control in 2001. The law was not trampled over, and law can at need be created very rapidly to deal with a real threat; but those people directly affected in the livestock business certainly did feel trampled on, I know several such via family living in pastoral areas. As did at least two of my neighbours in an urban setting, banned from taking their dogs into the woodland bordering their gardens.

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Indeed.  Governments in democratic countries generally still retain the ability to declare a state of emergency under which regulations can be made on the fly and, if it is deemed necessary, existing regulations consciously set aside in order to address the specific existential threat to the state.

 

The difference is that in a democratic state there is still (supposed to be) some of kind of accountability for such decisions after the event.

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The arrival of flu-like illnesses in China around Spring is an annual event going back many years. Influenza viruses rapidly mutate into stable new forms aided by their two or more host development. Firstly, they naturally exist in bird populations where the avian higher blood temperatures allow more rapid generation and indeed mutation. The virus may then move to a mammalian host - often a pig in China, where the animal's larger blood volume allows the stable [new] virus to multiply readily. As in Wuhan, where the outbreak is said to have broken out in a livestock abattoir/open-air fresh meat market, the transmission from pig to human presents no problems and is likely inevitable.

The only effective long term way to break that transmission chain is to separate live/dead/dying pigs from humans in urban areas - which in the case of a predominantly rural society like China and complicated by increasing rapid transit from farm to urban sites  is almost impossible without the use of draconian state powers. Added to which is the self sufficiency that most rural chinese have lived with their whole lives where the presence of one's own animals is the only buffer between life and starvation.

As I said, this is an annual cycle where only the severity of the resultant disease varies. Since the late '50s, the way flu vaccines have been generated in the UK is by studying which variants [described by which of the various H & N markers] the Chinese virus has and then using those to produce antibodies/weakened version of the virus. Generally we have had a perhaps, three month lead time to do this - but with China now being a major player in pretty much any industrial field and coupled with rapid air transport, that lead time available for UK research is becoming shorter and shorter.

 

Edited by Arun Sharma
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Just to add a little perspective, there have been 1462 new hospital admissions and 70 deaths from seasonal flu in the UK in 2020 (up till the end of last week), those are Public Health England figures.  As a proportion of the population, those figures are far higher than the current numbers for coronavirus in China.

 

jh

 

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1 hour ago, 34theletterbetweenB&D said:

I offer you the UK's  foot and mouth disease control in 2001. The law was not trampled over, and law can at need be created very rapidly to deal with a real threat; but those people directly affected in the livestock business certainly did feel trampled on,

 

I concur. By the very nature of where most people live, most people might have seen something on TV, but would have no direct experience of living in a F&M Control Area.

 

Quote

 

The outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom in 2001 caused a crisis in British agriculture and tourism. This epizootic saw 2,026 cases of the disease in farms across most of the British countryside. Over 6 million cows and sheep were killed in an eventually successful attempt to halt the disease. Cumbria was the worst affected area of the country, with 893 cases.

With the intention of controlling the spread of the disease, public rights of way across land were closed by order. .... By the time that the disease was halted in October 2001, the crisis was estimated to have cost the United Kingdom £8bn (US$16bn).

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_United_Kingdom_foot-and-mouth_outbreak

 

 

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5 minutes ago, jchinuk said:

Just to add a little perspective, there have been 1462 new hospital admissions and 70 deaths from seasonal flu in the UK in 2020 (up till the end of last week), those are Public Health England figures.  As a proportion of the population, those figures are far higher than the current numbers for coronavirus in China.

 

jh

 

 

Quite right, well put. Despite the mainstream media's habitual hysteria, it's important to keep some kind of scale and perspective. Far more people regularly die in UK hospitals, and our own winter peaks of "ordinary flu" are not being reported with the same excitement.  Several thousand deaths per week in the UK are considered "normal" and hardly get a mention in the headline news.

 

e.g. Figure 37. Weekly number of all-age deaths and attribution to influenza (red line) and extreme temperature (green line), England, 2014to 2019 (up to week 15)

 

image.png.11cfed0a71471fe2a2ed86765fb806d8.png

 

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/839350/Surveillance_of_influenza_and_other_respiratory_viruses_in_the_UK_2018_to_2019-FINAL.pdf

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In the 60's I made a rash statement to group of ban the bombers I knew  that never mind the bomb we all be killed by chickens .I had read somewhere about chicken  health issues long before China rose from its long sleep .I know the new death virus is not actually chicken related but near enough ....gawd.

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53 minutes ago, friscopete said:

In the 60's I made a rash statement to group of ban the bombers I knew  that never mind the bomb we all be killed by chickens .I had read somewhere about chicken  health issues long before China rose from its long sleep .I know the new death virus is not actually chicken related but near enough ....gawd.

 

Yet, it is relevant for similar reasons. Headline news in the UK would have us believe Avian Flu is somehow (and only) being spread by wild migrating birds. Ignoring the reality that most outbreaks of Avian Flu reported in the UK happen indoors in breeder farms. Typically in East Anglia, which use chicks imported by the lorry load from breeders in the east of Europe, where chicks can be bred and hatched more intensively and at lower cost, bringing Avian Flu in by road.

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