Now that the coronavirus death toll has tripled in a day, global health officials are beginning to acknowledge the real risks, and this morning's relief rally in stocks has mostly faded (with the Dow turning slightly red on the day).
But as morbid curiosity over the mysterious virus intensifies, and the number of declared cases and deaths surge, experts are warning that the pathogen has started to evolve and change.
To try and assuage a nervous population, Chinese health officials have said that all of those who have died from the virus had other co-occurring health issues, and that the mortality rate so far is much lower than the SARs outbreak from 2003, which killed between 30% and 50% of those infected (more than 800 eventually succumbed).
And one Chinese source warned that the pattern of new cases suggest the 'first wave' of the virus's spread across China has finished, and a 'second wave' will soon be discovered in Chengdu, Hainan, Kunming, Xiamen and Nanning.
As Beijing scrambles to contain the virus, the city of Wuhan is starting to resemble an open-air prison, as Communist Party officials have ordered that nobody enter, or leave, the city.
As hospitals rush to prepare for an onslaught of cases, one Twitter source said they were discharging patients to make room for more coronavirus victims, forcing many onto the street.
According to a translation of the tweet below, the following video shows patients crowding the hallways of hospitals, hoping to be tested to see if they have the virus.
【武汉民众恐慌】— 自由亚洲电台 (@RFA_Chinese) January 22, 2020
Another video shows isolation tents being set up by hospitals to quarantine patients suspected of carrying the virus.
【武汉医院搭起临时帐篷】— 自由亚洲电台 (@RFA_Chinese) January 22, 2020
A third video of a seemingly innocuous visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to a hospital in Xining a few days ago has prompted a backlash on Chinese social media, as users allegedly complained (according to a translation of the tweet below) that Li's sunny disposition wasn't appropriate given the severity of the crisis.
【李克强现身青海医院】— 自由亚洲电台 (@RFA_Chinese) January 22, 2020
China isn't the only country taking steps to limit travel: After detecting the first case in Taipei, Taiwanese authorities have moved to close off travel from Wuhan.
【新型肺炎疫情之下】— 自由亚洲电台 (@RFA_Chinese) January 22, 2020
Though much is still unknown about the SARS-related virus, the graphic below encapsulates current thinking on the virus's origins, as well as steps individuals can take to protect against infection.
According to a report in the SCMP, the wet fish market that has been identified as ground zero for the virus. Experts believe the virus may have jumped from one of the animals sold at the shop - known as the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market - which sells exotic wild animals for human consumption.
The market was shut down last month after the outbreak began, and is now under investigation and surveillance.
One stall that was on the east side of the market caught people’s attention online. According to a menu posted by the stallholder on Dazhong Dianping, the most popular review and rating app in China, the store sold dozens of different live animals and poultry, along with the fish.
And given all these images, perhaps Goldman is right when they warn that the situation could worsen in the near term, given the lag between initial infection and the reporting of cases, as well as the intensity of travel in the coming week within and around China.
In particular, Q1 consumption growth in the region could decelerate if consumers are forced to cancel trips and forego leaving their house.
While the severity of the economic impact is unknown, whatever happens, it's likely to be short-lived. In the SARS case and other recent outbreaks (e.g. H1N1, H7N9), the trough in activity typically occurred 1-3 months following the outbreak.
Increased public awareness, advancements in health technology, and better practices among both health professionals and government agencies may be mitigating factors, relative to prior outbreaks such as the 2003 SARS episode. However, transportation links and travel intensity within China have increased significantly during the intervening years, which could help accelerate the virus's spread in the states.