Pandemic simulation 'killed' 65,000,000 months before real outbreak

A shocking 65 million people were killed within 18 months of a pandemic outbreak in a simulation created by public health experts two months before the outbreak of coronavirus.

A global panel of experts created the hypothetical pandemic to assess how ready the world is for such an outbreak. They met in October for the Event 201 exercise organised by the John Hopkins University Centre for Health Security. So far, coronavirus has not been declared a pandemic.

The aim was to determine how national governments, public health bodies and the private sector could work together to respond to a hypothetical pandemic ‘with potentially catastrophic consequences’. In the simulation, as well as millions of people worldwide dying of the disease, there were cases in every country in just six months, it caused a global financial crisis and ruined the travel and tourism industry.

Experts behind the fictional exercise insist it was not a prediction of what is to come and that the inputs used are not similar to the Covid-19 that was first detected on December 31, in Wuhan, China. But the event is cause for concern as this week, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said it is preparing for coronavirus to become a pandemic, with the organisation’s former director bluntly declaring it ‘will’ become one.

A video of the Event 201 exercise shows how the characteristics of the fake virus are frighteningly similar to the current coronavirus spread.

The fake illness – named CAPS for Coronavirus Associated Pulmonary Syndrome – began in Brazilian pigs who passed it to farmers. It resulted in symptoms ranging from mild flu-like illness to pneumonia.

Three months in, the hypothetical disease had caused 30,000 illnesses and 2,000 deaths. According to the Event 201 website, in the hypothetical example, ‘the pandemic will continue at some rate until there is an effective vaccine or until 80–90% of the global population has been exposed’.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security has distanced the hypothetical event to the current Covid-19 outbreak.

It said in a statement: ‘We are not now predicting that the nCoV-2019 outbreak will kill 65 million people.

‘Although our tabletop exercise included a mock novel coronavirus, the inputs we used for modeling the potential impact of that fictional virus are not similar to nCoV-2019.’

The point of the exercise, the panel said, was to demonstrate gaps in pandemic preparedness ‘as well as some of the elements of the solutions between the public and private sectors that will be needed to fill them’.

As a result, the experts produced seven recommendations ‘to diminish the potential impact and consequences of pandemics’.

The 7 recommendations

1. Governments, international organizations, and businesses should plan now for how essential corporate capabilities will be utilized during a large-scale pandemic.

2. Industry, national governments, and international organizations should work together to enhance internationally held stockpiles of medical countermeasures (MCMs) to enable rapid and equitable distribution during a severe pandemic.

3. Countries, international organizations, and global transportation companies should work together to maintain travel and trade during severe pandemics.

4. Governments should provide more resources and support for the development and surge manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics that will be needed during a severe pandemic.

5. Global business should recognize the economic burden of pandemics and fight for stronger preparedness.

6. International organizations should prioritize reducing economic impacts of epidemics and pandemics.

7. Governments and the private sector should assign a greater priority to developing methods to combat mis- and disinformation prior to the next pandemic response.

Source: Event 201 website

So far in the UK, 7,690 people have been tested for the virus and of the 16 to have tested positive, eight have so far been discharged from hospital.

In China, where the virus originated, 78,497 cases have been reported, including 2,744 deaths.

World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus told a press conference in Geneva on Thursday that coronavirus has the potential to become a global pandemic but this stage had not been reached.

Public health advice remains to wash hands with soap, not rub the face and maintain a distance from people who are coughing and sneezing, he said.

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