Earlier this week, I was discussing with a group of Beijing based tech entrepreneurs about the implications of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on their business, when someone said:

“The most difficult part of this outbreak is that it is essentially a DDoS attack on hospitals.”

In information systems, DDoS stands for distributed denial of service – a common malicious attack using flood of internet traffic to bring a server or a network down.

Although nobody could laugh (it was a serious situation), it was a very refreshing perspective. It aptly explained why Wuhan, where the outbreak first happened, and the province of Hubei, where Wuhan is the capital, was worst hit by the crisis.

Healthcare system is overwhelmed – hospitals were packed with patients seeking diagnosis and treatment. Although Wuhan has probably one of the country’s best clusters of good hospitals, they weren’t able to handle the massive surge of loads.

As a result, many died without being treated (they only took in patients who were tested positive, not those who had clear symptoms but did not test). In addition, many were infected while seeking treatment for a normal cold/flu.

While medical supplies were shipped in – the most critical issue was probably the shortage of hospital beds and medical professionals. That was the reason why new hospitals were built at record-breaking speed:

The two major hospitals being built over <10 days are named after God of Fire and God of Thunder respectively. Both folk deities repel diseases
Exhibition halls were converted into military style hospitals

And medical professionals were sent in from the military and other provinces:

Military medics took over the management of God of Fire Hospital
Thousands of doctors and nurses are sent from various provinces to support Hubei

And during the last few days, there have been calls for special trains to shift some patients out of Hubei to other provinces, where the outbreak is largely under control.

But after this crisis – probably among the most important things is to build upstream filtering, something Singapore has done rather well. (If you read Chinese, you can check our blog post on Wechat on what Singapore has done).

Thanks for reading The Low Down (TLD), the blog by the team at Momentum Works. Got a different perspective or have a burning opinion to share? Let us know at [email protected].


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Jianggan Li is the Founder & CEO of Momentum Works. Prior to founding Momentum Works, he co-founded Easy Taxi in Asia, and served as Managing Director of Foodpanda. The two years running Rocket Internet companies has given him a lifetime experience on supersonic implementation, and good camaraderie with entrepreneurs across the developing world. He holds a MBA from INSEAD (GMAT 770) and a degree in Computer Engineering from Nanyang Technological University. Unfortunately he never wrote a single line of code professionally - but in his first job he was in media, travelling extensively across Asia & Europe, speaking with Ministers & (occasionally) Prime Ministers. Apart from English and his native Mandarin, he is also fluent in French and conversational in Cantonese & Spanish. He tried to learn Latin (for three years) and Sanskrit (for six months) as well. In his (scarce) free time, he reads, travels, hikes and dives. Pyongyang, Tehran & Chisinau are among the interesting cities he has been to.