London: Researchers have identified cities and provinces within China, and cities and countries worldwide, which are at high risk from the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The most ‘at risk’ countries or regions worldwide are Thailand (1), Japan (2) and Hong Kong (3). The US is placed 6th on the list, Australia 10th, the UK 17th and India 23rd, the study said.
A report by the University of Southampton’s WorldPop team has found Bangkok is currently the city most at risk from a global spread of the virus — based on the number of air travellers predicted to arrive there from the worst affected cities in mainland China.
Hong Kong is second on the list, followed by Taipei (Taiwan) and China. Sydney (12), New York (16) and London (19) are among the 30 other major international cities ranked in the research.
“The spread of the new coronavirus is a fast moving situation and we are closely monitoring the epidemic in order to provide further up-to-date analysis on the likely spread, including the effectiveness of the transport lockdown in Chinese cities and transmission by people returning from the Lunar New Year holiday, which has been extended to February 2,” said lead report author Shengjie Lai of the University of Southampton in the UK.
According to the report published in WorldPop, within China, the cities of Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Chongqing are all identified as high-risk by the researchers, along with the Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Zhejiang, Sichuan and Henan.
The team at WorldPop used anonymised mobile phone and IP address data (2013-15), along with international air travel data (2018) to understand typical patterns of movement of people within China, and worldwide, during the annual 40-day Lunar New Year celebrations (including the seven day public holiday from January 24 – 30).
From this, they identified 18 Chinese cities (including Wuhan) at high-risk from the new coronavirus and established the volume of air passengers likely to be travelling from these cities to global destinations (over a three month period).
The team was then able to rank the top 30 most at-risk countries and cities around the world.
The researchers acknowledge that their analysis is based on ‘non-outbreak’ travel patterns, but highlight that a high proportion of people travelled with symptoms at an early stage of the outbreak, before restrictions were put in place.
In fact, travel cordons are likely to have only coincided with the latter stages of peak population numbers leaving Wuhan for the holiday period.
According to Wuhan authorities, it is likely more than five million people had already left the city.
As of Wednesday, the toll due to the novel coronavirus increased to 132, with 5,974 confirmed cases.
“By mapping these trends and identifying high-risk areas, we can help inform public health interventions, such as screenings and healthcare preparedness,” said Andrew Tatem, Director of WorldPop and professor at the University of Southampton.