Lots of discussion and news on the coronavirus, ranging from a terrifying epidemic/pandemic to just another flu-like epidemic, just slightly more dangerous (I am leaning more on the second).
One point, however, is clear. The influence on this “flu” on the business and on way of living of people in several countries is big. I was impressed seeing the graphic produced by Carbon Brief showing the use of coal in China in January and February. Coal is still a major energy source in China so it is a good indicator of overall energy use.
Every year there is a decline in consumption at the Chinese New Year (end of January) when most Chinese are on vacation and manufacturing plants slow down (usually stopping production and engaging in plant maintenance). After the New Year production goes back to normal and so does the use of coal.
Not so this year. The effect of the coronavirus containment measures have started to be visible by middle of January and have been clear after the New Year vacation period. Manufacturing did not resume at full speed as in previous years and the coal consumption has stayed low, at the level of the New Year vacation week (orange line). This has resulted in a decrease of CO2 emission by 25%, a good thing, probably, for the planet, as well as an indicator of unpredictable factor on the economy.
The disruption in the supply chain does not stop to China, rather it is affecting the world. Apple, for one, has warned of lower than expected sales due to shortage in supply (as well as lower sales in China since shops have closed).
It is today’s news the close down of air traffic from Europe to the US and the signiifcant reduction of air traffic in Europe (with the close down of several air trave to Italy). Italy is under a lock down that is dramatically affecting people way of life, disrupting the economy and this seems to be just the starting of what can become a situation affecting several other countries in Europe over the coming weeks.
It should also be noted that this exceptional situation is pushing companies and institutions to make much more use of the cyberspace, as movement in the physical space is constrained. All university education, lectures, teaching, exams and even theses defences are taking place via video conference and remote teaching platform. Many companies have activated “smart working”. This is going to create a new culture or at least provide a hands on nationwide experiment of life -and business- in the cyberspace.
For a day to day update in the Italian diffusion of the virus check this interesting data rendering.