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Coronavirus From the Front Line – NDM Founding Director, Glan Clayton


There were plenty of things I could have talked about in my first blog of the year, including the New Year, Christmas celebrations and Brexit. However, this has all been overshadowed by the coronavirus epidemic, therefore I best start with that…

To put it directly, the coronavirus nova-19 is just a form of the common cold. Most of these pandemics (SARS, MERS) are. This means they are easy to catch and as of yet, there is no cure.

However, that doesn’t mean you die if you get it. Instead you just feel ill to a certain extent and then it’s down to your body’s immune system fight it.

The flu has a death rate of about 1%, as against this virus at 2%, but we don’t go around being frightened of catching flu. Did you know that in the USA, this winter alone, over 10,000 people have died of flu!!! Kind of puts the 200 deaths from corona into perspective, doesn’t it?


Stats of the Coronavirus suggest that it has infected more people, however the death percentage is much lower than that of SARS. Myself and our live-in niece Diana, think the SARS virus was extremely undercounted. In her village near Chengdu, in the West of China, she believes many people died of it, however the deaths were never counted, and then many more individuals contracted it.


SARS was supposed to be mainly confined to the Dongguan province in the South, but Chengdu is far away from that! The SARS pandemic occurred between 2002 and 2003. I visited Dongguan province 6 or 7 times over that period. I used to fly to Hong Kong and get a ferry up the river to where I visited in China.

The authorities stationed temperature monitors both for going in and getting out of Hong Kong and China, with teams of people in white suits and masks ready to snatch you away to hospital if you were too hot.


One time I ate too much of a beautiful Korean dish of raw beef and strong garlic. I was told at the time to only eat a small portion, but I wolfed a load down. I then got food poisoning and was in my hotel room for the remaining 4 days of the trip – I won’t go into detail!

Then, when it was time to get the ferry back to Hong Kong, I still had a temperature. I thought a Hong Kong hospital could be bearable but a Chinese one (at the time – they are much better now), on my own, would be bad.
Therefore, I got to the port, bought a two litre bottle of cold water, went to the toilet and, after taking off my shirt, poured it all over me to cool me down!!! Anyways, it worked, and I got through China emigration and HK immigration. I was on the Immodium for a couple of weeks after though. It is the only time in 20 years of going to China that I have had a very serious food poisoning problem.

Anyway, back to today. Wuhan, and the whole of Hubei province where it sits, are quarantined. That is 40 million people!! So, you can’t say the Chinese aren’t taking it seriously this time (or undercounting in my view).

Our massage place, which is a 15-minute walk from where I live, is mainly staffed by girls from Hubei province (everyone tries to come east for a job). They are nowhere near Wuhan but their train tickets back after the Chinese New Year break have been cancelled. They don’t know when they will be allowed to get new ones.


Chinese New Year was supposed to end 2nd February, when the biggest mass human migration in history recommences as people go from their family homes all over the country, back to the cities and work.  The government have now extended this by a couple of days. However, normality will have to resume soon, and the genie will be out of the bottle. China cannot afford not to work.

In our city of Jiaxing, there are four cases of the coronavirus which represents one thousandth of 1 percent of the population. Nevertheless, our factory start-up has been postponed from 2 Feb to 9 Feb (so far); there are roadblocks with temperature checks everywhere, and you can’t go to supermarkets without a face mask.


Back in Dongguan province it is illegal to go outside without a face mask (face masks, by the way, are worse than useless). Sabrina, my wife, is still trying to get back from Las Vegas (hopefully tomorrow) but she does stand a chance of being quarantined at the airport if they find anyone from Wuhan on board. Hubei province will continue to be locked down.


By the way, it has now been confirmed that the coronavirus originated from live bats at Wuhan market into its human form. Who really wants to eat a bat? I have eaten some stuff in China but there’s just no meat on a bat!

The eating of exotic wildlife is a thing with certain rich Chinese people, who claim to be gourmets. One thing I have learned during my time in China, is that if you are served a dish that is a ‘delicacy’ and ‘especially good for men’ (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) then don’t eat it. Stick to oysters if you want ‘good for men’.


Some of us older folk will remember the cheap science fiction movies of the 60’s where we faced an alien invasion but from people who looked human. It saved a lot on the makeup, but it meant you could not tell who the enemy was. The new corona virus has picked up on this idea.

Only 20% of those infected have any symptoms at all, so they never know that they have had it. This means they don’t get a temperature and can only be detected with a blood test, leaving them free to infect others. Only the 20% can be detected via symptoms. Rather like the alien invaders that look human, if you can’t detect them how can you stop them?

So, once China starts working and travelling again, the game is definitely up, even if it isn’t already. Maybe it is up for the world on that basis? 8 billion people x 20% x 2% death rate means 32 million die…

China, of course, exported the Black Death (via rats and fleas) which killed over a third of people in Europe. However, these things tend to expand rapidly and peak, then die away, as did SARS. Current projection is to peak end of February and die away by end of March. There is also a race to provide a vaccine, but this won’t be until late summer at best.

Happy New Year, Glan