Coronavirus. What is it? Where did it come from? How to combat the new disease? Is it another avian/swine flu to enrich pharmaceutical companies or is it dangerous indeed? Is it another man-made Ebola or a natural process?
Inna Novikova, Pravda.Ru editor-in-chief, talks about the Chinese flu problem with director of NPR Group consulting agency, Dmitry Fetisov.
"Mr. Fetisov, you are a political scientist in the first place, but we would like to start with topic number one today, the coronavirus. To which extent is the new disease dangerous? What impact can coronavirus have on economy, transport and tourism? Of course, coronavirus is primarily a disease, a threat to human health and life, but let's leave it all to medics. What does this phenomenon look like from the point of view of a political consultant?"
"Indeed, this is not only a medical topic, but also an economic and political issue.
This problem has already gone far beyond healthcare.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin was forced to close the border in the Far East. This is a serious blow to economic processes. Despite the fact that the attitude towards the mass presence of the Chinese in our society is far ambiguous, many are outraged, as China does show a great influence on the Russian Far East. There are many Chinese companies working there, there are many Chinese workers there too, many move from China to the Far East of Russia. Russian people travel to China from the region on a regular basis. This is a normal process, and it is impossible to curtail it.
However, if we take a look at the problem from the point of view of the Russian state as a whole, we can say that Russia is now suffering losses from the impact of the coronavirus. It goes about logistics here in the first place. The border has been closed, and the turnover started falling, because the countries are unable to exchange goods to the fullest, as they did before. I am not an economist, but I think it goes about billions in losses already."
"This is not the first time, when we have outbreaks of diseases, we can see it now almost every year."
"I am not a conspiracy theorist, but judging from the reaction of the Russian authorities to this phenomenon, the attention that President Putin pays to the problem, and the closure of borders between Russia and China, I tend to believe that the threat of the coronavirus is not exaggerated.
As the story was developing, one could assume that it was a new media thing, that someone probably wanted to lobby the interests of the pharmaceutical industry, but now we see that the threat is serious indeed.
The threat, of course, exists, and the scale of this threat forced the Russian authorities to take such extreme measures as closing the border. This is temporary, of course, but in any case, the Kremlin is watching the situation closely."
"They say that the virus will strike Russia in the middle of Feburary. It is impossible to isolate such a vast territory as Russia. There are plentitude of possibilities for the virus to spread further and further."
"This is true, taking into consideration the fact that the incubation period of the new virus lasts for 14 days. This is a lot."
"One can travel the whole world in 14 days. At the same time, millions of people in the world catch flu every year. Currently, they count the number of coronavirus cases in thousands. Do you think it is alarming already?"
"This is a small number for China, given its population size. Yet, the matter is not about numbers - it is the further spread of the virus that is dangerous. We've witnessed other stories like that, suffice it to recall SARS epidemic. Today, it is very important how other countries react to what is happening in China. This is a very serious reaction that may sow panic and destabilize the society. But,
I am sure that they would not be taking such actions unless absolutely necessary. This virus, I think, will remain in news bulletins for a long time to come. This topic is not going anywhere in the near future.
Interviewed by Inna Novikova
More than 3,500 people were detained during unprecedented mass protests that swept across all of Russia in support of Alexey Navalny on January 23