By Bill Hunter, CEO
As I run a medical company I was aware of what was happening in Wuhan and the outbreak of the then-named Wuhan Virus.
On 28th January, I had realised with total clarity that we were in for a global pandemic of similar proportions to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic caused by coronavirus H1N1. At the time it seemed that no one else that I knew seemed to understand the what was about to happen.
I had understood the implications of the Wuhan's flu R0 number. (This pronounced R nought).
Back then Wuhan flu had not been rebranded to the politically correct, non-geographic brand of COVID-19.
The RO number is the way the infection potential of a virus is defined. The number denotes the number of people a virus carrier is likely to infect. A person infected with a coronavirus of 2 is likely on average to infect 2 people.
There are currently about 8 coronaviruses that attack humans. The standard range of influenzas have an RO of between 1.2 and 1.3, Sares and Meres both had RO of around 2. The moment I became really worried was when I realised that Wuhan flu was very likely to have an R0 number of 4. This meant that one infected person was likely to infect 4 other people.
It became obvious that the Chinese were not going to be able to contain the virus locally in the Wuhan area. The genie was out of the bottle and the horse had bolted.
Forget about the stable door
This was not a Black Swan event (defined as something negative that was not predicted) this was a great White Rhino event, defined as something bloody big and coming towards you at speed.
To use a better analogy based on rugby, the virus is better described as a George North event. (George is a large, fast and mobile Welsh Rugby Winger).
The analogy between George and COVID-19 fits because the virus is quick to move, coming this way, will cause a lot of damage and most importantly due to its RNA structure it is able and likely to change direction at pace.
I had, as Alex Fergison would say, collected a pertinent piece of information, I had understood the R0 number, Alex Fergison had stated that all his best decisions were based on one piece of pertinent information.
At 4.00pm January 29th 2020, I knew with clarity that Wuhan flu was on its way, the only question was when would it arrive, which sections of the population would it kill and would it have mutated by the time it arrived into a less or more virulent form?
The next day was spent studying the family of coronaviruses and pandemics. Here is what I discovered:
All coronaviruses are termed as enveloped, this means that the RNA at the centre is Virus is protected by an outside layer made of protein, in this case, peptide. It is this peptide outside layer that attaches to human mucus membranes, following attachment the infection process begins.
I then collected the 2nd piece of pertinent information, this was that the peptide layer could be broken down within 30 seconds when it made contact with an alcohol solution of between 60% and 90%.