A girl lights candles in Kathmandu, Nepal. Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has killed thousands in China. Picture: AFP/NurPhoto/Narayan Maharjan
A girl lights candles in Kathmandu, Nepal. Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has killed thousands in China. Picture: AFP/NurPhoto/Narayan Maharjan

The phrase "how to not get coronavirus" is trending on Google. That’s hardly a surprise — the number of Covid-19 infections worldwide has soared to 80,000 as the novel virus does the thing that viruses do best, spread fast and far.

Countries affected so far include South Korea, Japan and northern Italy — as of Monday 172 people had been infected in Lombardy, shutting down the Venice Carnival and Milan Fashion Week. Eight Middle East and Gulf countries now have cases, including Iran, where, officially, 12 people have died, though some reports say 50. Countries in the region are shutting their borders and stopping flights.

As of Tuesday morning, the virus had killed 2,700 people worldwide, most of them in China. That’s a mortality rate of 1%-2%.

That many more people have been infected, been ill and recovered is lost in the hysteria.

Meanwhile, researchers try to get a grip on the origins of the virus. The most likely suspects are bats, from which it spread to pangolins and then to humans, possibly at a "wet market" in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a place that will now forever be known as a kind of viral Chernobyl.

You can expect a surge of anti-China sentiment in the plague’s wake.

But it is too easy to point fingers at people who ate pangolins. Viruses are all around us and are little different to the predators — the stripey cats, crocodiles and bears — that occasionally still prey on us. Every organism does what it can to prosper and humans, soaked in hubris, think they are the best at it.

Maybe not so much.

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