German study lists 20 countries that are likely to import coronavirus

20 countries  likely at risk of importing the coronavirus (2019-nCoV), according to a study by Germany’s Humboldt University and Robert Koch Institute.

An extensive computational/mathematical model for “expected global spread of the novel coronavirus” of the novel coronavirus that originated in the Chinese province of Hubei in December 2019. The foundation of the model is the worldwide air transportation network (WAN) that connects approx. 4000 airports with more than 25000 direct connections.

The study put the ‘relative import risk’ for Thailand at 2.179% who also topped the chart, while Ethiopia on the bottom was at .064%.

“Relative import risk” is the percentage of infected individuals travelling from an affected area – in this case China – with another country to their final destination.

“Say, a hypothetical 1000 infected individuals board planes at Hangzhou Airport. An import risk of 0.2% in Germany means that, of those 1000 individuals, only 2 are expected to have Germany as their final destination,” the study said.

“By looking at air travel passenger numbers, we can estimate how likely it is the virus spreads to other areas. The busier a flight route, the more probable it is an infected passenger travels this route. Using these probabilistic concepts, we calculate relative import risk to other airports,” it added.

One of the scientists has cautioned against using this model to make definitive predictions of any sort.

“This is not so much a tool for making quantitative predictions. Public health officials and policymakers have to develop an intuition because this virus is something unknown. Models can help you develop an intuition,” Dirk Brockmann, who led the modeling team, was quoted.

The study ranks Thailand, Japan and South Korea as three countries most at risk.

The outbreak, believed to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan, has been declared a “global health emergency” by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The virus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS, which killed nearly 800 people in mainland China and Hong Kong between 2002 and 2003. Scientists hope to be testing vaccines in three months; China is testing the anti-HIV drug Aluvia as a treatment.