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The Economic Consequences of the Coronavirus

The Chinese government's measures to tackle the coronavirus epidemic are handicapping the country’s economy and disrupting supply chains and tourism across Asia. Sharing information with the public may be more effective in containing the outbreak than draconian restrictions on freedom of movement – and less economically damaging.

TOKYO – Since a new type of coronavirus was reported in Wuhan, China, last December, the number of people infected worldwide has soared to over 44,000, and the death toll now exceeds 1,100. The virus is spreading across Asia – including to Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia – and also to countries in Europe and North America, although only one death has been reported outside China so far.

It remains to be seen how lethal this new virus ultimately will be. At the moment, it is certainly less severe than the 2002-03 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic, caused by a different coronavirus. The new bug has killed more people, but SARS was deadlier, killing almost 10% of the 8,096 people worldwide known to have been infected.

Nonetheless, on January 23, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government announced a lockdown of Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. Since then, the number of Chinese cities under quarantine has risen to 16, and more may follow.