Dispatches from the Front on Coronavirus

I see that I am overdue for an update on conditions here in the new global front in the war on the coronavirus outbreak. 

As of Wednesday morning, March 4th (Korea time), this country has 5,186 confirmed cases of the virus, with 32 deaths. That makes a mortality rate of around 0.6% — which, again, must be measured against the extreme likelihood that a far greater proportion of people with serious symptoms are being tested and diagnosed with the virus than the number who have actually contracted the virus but have had no symptoms, and therefore have had no reason to be tested. In other words, the Korean mortality rate, already quite low compared to other countries, partly for reasons I have previously explained, is almost certain to drop significantly in the long run, once the outbreak is over and the statisticians break out their modelling methods to get a better picture of what really happened.

As for the deaths recorded in Korea so far, a simple and informative summary in the country’s biggest English newspaper, The Korea Herald, gets to the nub of the issue:

The average age of the patients who died of the virus is 68.5 years, and the average time from diagnosis to death is four days.

All had health issues such as heart, liver, kidney and lung diseases or Parkinson’s disease, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.

The overwhelming majority of deaths, 96 percent, have been reported in Daegu and nearby North Gyeongsang Province.


Seven of the deaths were of former patients at a psychiatric ward at Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, a county in North Gyeongsang Province.

The National Medical Center’s clinical committee for new infectious diseases said all the deceased had preexisting lung problems, which is believed to have caused the disease to progress rapidly.

The committee said the high infection and death rates at the mental health facility were attributable to shared communal spaces and poorly ventilated rooms, with windows and doors shut to prevent patients from hurting themselves.

The only person in the chronological “prime of life” to die of the virus here so far was a 35-year-old Mongolian, who was in Korea to receive a liver transplant in February, and therefore obviously in a severely weakened condition when he contracted the virus.

Nobody wants to get a bad respiratory flu, let alone to pass it along to someone in a vulnerable condition. But the people talking wildly, with pseudo-arithmetical bluster, about what percentage of the world’s population might die during this pandemic, are simply jumping on a media-fueled titillation and hysteria bandwagon that, in addition to being extremely irresponsible and unhelpful, is likely to leave them looking (and feeling) very ridiculous in a few weeks.

As for the Chinese case, where thousands have died, I think what we are seeing, in part, is the exposed reality beneath the shiny, smiling mask of communist China’s “new economy.” Much of that nation’s revitalization is smoke and mirrors. It would not be surprising to me to find that — aside from the mortality rate being exaggerated by the systematic underreporting of cases by the Communist Party — there is a large Chinese underclass living with generally weak constitutions due to heavy smoking and drinking, poor nutrition, and inadequate hygiene.

And living this unhealthy life in Wuhan, a city of nineteen million people. Urban overcrowding — the dream of the United Nations global government progressives, as of the Chinese communists — causes or exacerbates illnesses of all kinds, from the moral to the medical, the political to the pandemic.

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