“Shut your damn mouths,” she explained

Somehow this is one of the less reassuring public statements I’ve read. But the virus-as-punishment explanation is very interesting indeed:

When virologists and medical experts around the globe discussed the suspicious nature of the novel coronavirus and pointed to Wuhan’s P4 lab as a likely source, netizens inside China were watching. A Chinese scholar recently challenged Wuhan’s P4 lab to explain how the proteins of the novel coronavirus seem to have been precisely engineered to enable the virus to bind onto human cells. He also disclosed unethical and unprofessional practices he previously observed in China’s bioresearch labs.

According to Wuhan-based Yangtze Daily, Shi Zhengli, Deputy Director of Wuhan’s P4 Lab, publicized a statement on Feb. 2 saying: “I pledge with my life that the 2019 novel coronavirus has nothing to do with our lab. This virus is a punishment imposed on mankind from nature, to condemn mankind’s uncivilized way of living. Those of you who believe rumors or so-called scientific analysis by unqualified researchers, I advise you to shut your damn mouths!”

One WeChat user chimed in:

“For instance, some researchers in these labs kept the laboratory dogs as pets; some disposed of animal carcasses casually because following the biosafety rules and cremating them costs a lot of money. Some cut up the laboratory pigs and took the meat home to eat. I know this happened at Beijing 301 Hospital’s spine surgery lab. Worst of all, some laboratory animals were sold to wet markets as wild-caught animals for profit,” he wrote.

In other news, the death rate for coronavirus is almost certainly way higher than you’ve been led to believe:

On 7 Feb 2020, 22:17 Singapore time, the latest figures are:

Confirmed: 31586 Deaths: 639 Recovered: 1777

A large number of commentators, including mainstream media, report this as a 2% CFR, calculated as 639/31586 = 2%. While this is worse than the seasonal flu, it is much less than SARS (10%) and MERS (30%), so no need to worry, they say. We, the smart informed people who watch CNN and the like, can feel smug, having made our part in avoiding a panic by relaying this reassuring information to our friends.


Of the 31586 confirmed cases, about 85% have been diagnosed in the last 10 days. Many are in worsening condition and we do not know if they will die or recover. Therefore, to estimate the CFR, we can do one of two things:

– We can consider only the cases for which an outcome is known: dead or recovered. This would lead us to estimate the CFR as 639/(639+1777) = 26%.

– We can assume that after a certain time period, e.g. 1 week, the patient has either died or recovered. A week ago, there were 9803 confirmed cases. This would lead us to estimate the CFR as 639/9803 = 6%. Obviously, we do not know the right lag, but something between 1 and 2 weeks seems plausible given what we know about the disease. And it is certainly not zero.

Somehow this very simple logic seems to have escaped most of the people that are commenting and reporting on the issue.

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