There is no shortage of alarming and depressing news when reading about the Wuhan coronavirus. The World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency. There are still many unknowns, but there are some indications that the outbreak may not be as severe as our worst fears. Here’s what I’ll be watching as the outbreak unfolds.

China’s response

China’s response has been significantly swifter than its response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003. There seems to be little evidence of Chinese authorities deliberately misrepresenting or concealing data related to this outbreak, which was a widespread concern during the SARS episode. The response to the epidemic has also been much more decisive, as the Chinese government has been taking unprecedented drastic measures to stamp out the virus as soon as possible, including closing 17 cities and quarantining about 50 million people.1


Sources: World Health Organization, New England Journal of Medicine and others.

With the virus dominating the news cycle worldwide for over a week now, China’s people have been taking more precautions (such as wearing face masks and staying home). These measures may reduce transmission substantially2 and milder symptomatic cases are more likely to be reported, reducing the days from symptoms to isolation.