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10 February, 2020 11:31:40 AM

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The economic impacts of corona virus

Weeks back China finally lurched into action, effectively quarantining whole cities in Hubei and tens of millions of people living there. The rest of China has been essentially put on a war footing
Prof. Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
The economic impacts of corona virus

A new kind of deadly disease of late occurring from coronavirus infection has hit the world’s second largest economy China and isolating it from the rest of the world. Coronavirus death toll in China as of February 8, 2020 rose to 722 including a United States (US) citizen in China and the number of infected hit 31,161.

The number of death toll and infected are continually rising day by day. Outside China more than 150 cases have been reported in 25 countries across the world with one death in the Philippines and another in Hong Kong which raised the total death toll to 724 and infected to 31,311. Further international exportation of cases might appear in any country, warned the World Health Organisation (WHO). Meanwhile, with the US leading a growing list of nations to impose extraordinary Chinese travel bans, China faced deepening isolation over its coronavirus epidemic. The virus has now spread to more than two dozen nations with Britain, Russia and Sweden among the countries confirming their first infections, sending governments scurrying to limit their exposure. The US by declaring a national emergency toughened its stance January 31, 2020, temporarily barring entry to foreigners who had been in China within the past two weeks. That follows similar steps by countries including Italy, Singapore, and China's northern neighbour Mongolia. Other nations including the US, Japan, Britain, Germany had already advised their citizens not to travel to China. Bangladesh is safe up till now.

Beijing, with the foreign ministry calling Washington's earlier advice against travel to China "unkind", insists it can contain the virus. It also began to show impatience over the growing ostracism. The US emergency declaration also requires Americans returning from the ground zero Chinese province of Hubei to be placed in mandatory 14-day quarantine, and health screening for US citizens coming from other parts of China. Bangladesh is similarly treated its 312 citizens who have recently been brought back from Wuhan, China and none of them are infected, and the rest Bangladeshi citizens are discouraged to come back home. The virus emerged in early December 2019 and has been traced to a market in Hubei's capital Wuhan that sold wild animals. It then jumped to humans. And in no time spread globally on the wings of a Lunar New Year holiday rush. That sees hundreds of millions of Chinese people travel domestically and overseas. Wuhan's top official, with public anger mounting in China, admitted that authorities there had acted too slowly; if strict control measures had been taken earlier the result would have been better than now.

Weeks back China finally lurched into action, effectively quarantining whole cities in Hubei and tens of millions of people living there. The rest of China has been essentially put on a war footing. Of the unprecedented safeguards imposed nationwide include extending the holiday, postponing school reopening and nationwide tight health screening on travellers. But the toll keeps mounting at an ever-increasing pace mostly in Hubei. As mentioned above the number of infected and deaths are also continually rises with the present global total infected number of 31,311 and deaths 724. It is far higher than the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002-2003. SARS, which is similar to the new coronavirus and also originated in China, killed 774 people worldwide. The deceased were most in China or Hong Kong. The WHO, though did not advise international trade or travel restrictions, declared the outbreak a global emergency. It warned that, in halting transmission, closing borders was probably ineffective and could accelerate the virus's spread.

But authorities across the world pressed ahead with preventive measures. Singapore barred arrivals and transit passengers from mainland China, citing a likely "sharper rise" in infections. Mongolia toughened earlier restrictions by implementing a ban on any arrivals from its huge Southern Neighbour China until March 2, 2020. Impoverished Papua New Guinea went last week so far as to bar all visitors from "Asian ports". Adding to concerns over combatting the contagion, Thai health officials said a taxi driver became the kingdom's first case of human-to-human transmission. Thailand joins China, Germany, Japan, France and the US with confirmed domestic infections. Putting Chinese nationals in difficult positions abroad, amid complaints of racism, the health crisis has dented China's international image. In one striking example, more than 40,000 workers at a vast Chinese-controlled industrial park in Indonesia – which also employs 5,000 staff from China – were put under quarantine; no one can enter or leave without permission.

On the other hand world markets tumbled again on January 31, 2020 due to the uncertainty hovering over the world's second-largest economy. China is now a key driver of global growth. Growing numbers of major airlines have suspended or reduced China flights. While corporate names ranging from Toyota to McDonald's and Starbucks have shut down Chinese stores or production lines. Countries have scrambled to evacuate their nationals from Wuhan, with hundreds of US, Japanese, British, French, South Korean, Bangladeshi and Indian citizens evacuated so far. And more countries are planning airlifts of their citizens. Russia said it would evacuate more than 2,500 of its citizens holidaying far from the epicentre on China's Hainan Island. So, the outbreak of the virus is a big blow to the Chinese economy and its image across the world.

Though the infected patient of the virus is yet to be found in Bangladesh, it is apprehended that the impact of the virus in the country will be felt in the form of delayed completion of the Padma Bridge under construction with the help of Chinese expertise. The bridge was expected to be completed by the year 2021. In addition if the calamity continues the Sino-Bangladesh trade and commerce will suffer to the loss of Bangladesh export-import trade because of its heavy dependence on Chinese market for export of some important commodities.    

The writer is a retired Professor of Economics and Vice Principal at Cumilla Women’s Government College, Cumilla.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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