As the coronavirus outbreak spreads, naturally there is a lot of uncertainty about what that could mean for your physical well-being and your investments. Kim Parlee talks with Dr. Vipan Nikore, Chief Medical Director, TD Bank, and Michael Craig, Head of Asset Allocation, TD Asset Management.
KIM PARLEE: Before we actually get into the markets, as we said, we have Dr. Vipan Nicore here, as I mentioned, to give us his take on the latest COVID-19 update. And Dr. Nicore, I'm just going to start there, what is the latest?
VIPAN NICORE: Thank you, Kim. Thanks for having me. I'm actually here at the hospital. I also work over at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga. So I'm actually live here in the hospital to give you up-to-date information.
But I think before that, there's a lot of facts and fiction out there. So I just want to give a few basic facts on where we stand with the coronavirus. Some of the big things we want to know is, well, what's the mortality? Right now it looks like it could be anywhere between 0.73 to 3.5. Of course, time will time will tell.
One of the things I like to look at is the Korea data, where they've been aggressively testing. And their mortality rate is around 0.7%. But again, we're still learning. That's still seven times more infectious than the flu, which is at 0.1%. SARS was 10%. MERS, which was another big infectious disease, was 35%, and Ebola 70%. So that just gives you a sense of where things stand.
Another big thing is infectiousness. So when we look at how infectious it is, it is a little bit more infectious than the standard influenza, far less infectious than something like measles. We have something called the R0 score-- measles is 15. Don't worry about the numbers, but this is around 2, so about 1/10. But again, it is more infectious than the regular influenza.
It's transmitted via droplets. It used to be thought, well, maybe is this through airborne spread like tuberculosis? There's a little bit of that, that can happen. And that's why in the hospitals we use these N95 masks for just certain procedures like when we're putting a breathing tube and intubating patients with complex procedures. But otherwise, we know for the most part, we can use a basic surgical mask. I've seen several potential ones today in a basic surgical mask, certainly other gear as well on top of that.
In terms of transmission, people are often concerned how it's transmitted. It's transmitted-- we learn more, obviously, through research that comes out every day-- but as I mentioned, usually person-to-person contact within two meters or six feet. Surfaces transmission, it's not very common, but we do have to be mindful if the virus does stay on surfaces. Other coronaviruses have been two to ten days. This has been showing, perhaps, up to three days, depending on the surface.
And in terms of symptoms, about 81% have mild cases. Up to 5% or so are having critical cases.
And one of the big things that we're now sort of preparing for is, how is this going to play out here in Canada, in North America? When we look at numbers, we're at around 182,000 cases. A lot of this is in the news, so I won't really get to all these numbers in detail. But the important point is, from the time it left China, we're seeing how different countries have handled it. Those such as Korea, particularly even Singapore, have done a great job. In Italy, their mortality rate is closer around the 7% range, give or take. So these are big indicators of what could happen. And that's why we're getting to an entirely different strategy.
Initially, we were in sort of this containment strategy, trying to kind of keep it out of the country. And we'll still see some of that through border holdings, of course. But now the focus is on social distancing. And if we can decrease the amount of interaction, it decreases the spread. Perhaps that will mitigate it from sort of our society or-- and I don't want to say that lightly because it will, of course, still affect people we know. People will unfortunately die from this in the coming months ahead. It's a matter of how many people.
And the more we are prepared as a system-- and you've all probably heard about flattening the curve. And that's the very least we need to make sure that we can do. In Toronto area, there are three cases now in the ICU here. So these are things that we have to be aware and really take this seriously.
Probably one last point around treatments, we have no specific treatments. There are ones that are being tested and trialed. Galidesivir is probably the one showing the most promise right now, but still a long way to go before we get vaccinations and treatment.
KIM PARLEE: Dr. Nicore, I know you have to get back to patients, so I'm going to ask one last quick follow-up question just that in terms of mitigation, like you had said, we're at the point now where we're just trying to flatten the curve as per what you said earlier, how prepared do you feel that the medical system is to handle? Because that's been one of the big fears when you look at other countries in Europe in terms of just getting overwhelmed.
VIPAN NICORE: Yeah, I think everyone's taking it seriously across the country, which is very important. I can tell you all the hospital systems I've been involved with here, in discussions I've had with public health agencies, et cetera, everyone is trying to nip everything. Whether it's figuring out things from ventilators to testing kits, everyone is working tirelessly to figure things out. How are we going to handle-- so many questions-- how are we going to handle people for long-term care, because we don't want them-- there's not going to be a lot of people being transferred to hospitals during this time, of course, because it'll be more dangerous-- so how are we going to handle that? There's so many details that need to be thought through. And the good thing is, there's lots of people working on this.
So the good thing is we did-- not good that we had SARS, what I mean by that is, it did provide us a little bit more preparation by having that experience. And that's why-- so to reiterate, they had MERS hit them, and they were a little more prepared because of that experience as well.
KIM PARLEE: Dr. Nicore, thank you. We will let you get back to the work. Best of luck.
VIPAN NICORE: Of course.
KIM PARLEE: And thank you for all that you do.
VIPAN NICORE: Thanks for having me.
KIM PARLEE: A pleasure. Let's bring in Michael Craig-- again, Managing Director and Head of Asset Allocation for TD Asset Management. Michael, you and I have discussed this before. This is not a financial crisis. I tell people that this is a public health crisis. But maybe you could start with, what do you see a pandemic meaning for the global economy?
MICHAEL CRAIG: You know, it's amazing when you think of these things as specific kind of thinking, simplicity in what we see every day. I was just walking in the underground in Toronto and it's empty, which is very odd. You certainly see that during holiday seasons, but not in the middle of the workweek. And what I mean is you're going to see a broad-based shutdown of many areas of commerce around the world for the foreseeable future. This could last weeks, if not a few months.
And so it's a basically a full stop. And it's necessary because, I think rightly so, we need to slow the spread of this to prevent long-term damage. And by doing that, it means that in the near-term the global economy is really going to come to a bit of a grinding halt. Small businesses, medium-sized businesses will shut. And we're just going to have to wait this out.
We've certainly seen a lot of volatility in the markets. Much of this has already kind of gone through the financial markets. But I do believe it is a temporary thing. And what I mean by that is, it's a few months. But it's certainly striking right now how quickly and rapidly many, sort of within Canada and North America, are quickly falling down.
Other areas are starting to come back up again. China was a few months ahead of us, and now you're starting to see their economy come back to life. So this will pass, but right now, it's almost like a full stop of commerce.
KIM PARLEE: It is, I'd say, somewhat what I'd say dark few days, but of a ray of sunshine is here that you're seeing activity pick up in China. So that is positive. Can you tell me how you see this unfolding? We've seen the central banks come out with a bazooka in terms of what they're doing to try and provide a monetary net, if you will, but the focus really is on governments right now.
MICHAEL CRAIG: Yeah, so there's a bit of a try out approach here. One is you need Central Bank action. Secondly, you need governments to support the economy while it goes through this kind of hibernation. And the third is you need focus to support the health care system. Central banks have moved quick-- first. They usually do. We've seen pretty dramatic policy changes from global central banks, most recently the US Fed on the weekend slashing rates to interest rates of zero and announcing various programs to support the financial markets. It's welcome, but not enough. Ultimately the key is what policy comes from governments.
And here we're starting to see the first evidence of this. Just before this call, there's talk about a $1.2 trillion fiscal package coming out of the US, which is 6% of GDP, something we've actually never seen before. It's just a tremendous number.
And things like supporting workers who are displaced, providing funding for businesses that are temporarily shut, things like that are going to be very common. In our country, it'll be seen relaxed EI wait times, et cetera. So it's going to be targeted. And it's not going to-- look, we're going to go through a very tough time, but it's really there to soften that period.
KIM PARLEE: So can you tell me a bit about really what we should expect in the weeks ahead and the months ahead from your perspective? And also, if you could, just maybe talk a bit to just the volatility we see in the markets? I mean, that has been heart stopping for a lot of people.
MICHAEL CRAIG: Yeah, the volatility is not comforting, and it's going both ways. There's days when we're dropping precipitously, and days we're rallying quite wildly. From our perspective, what we want to see is we want to see measures targeted to support businesses that are being affected by this. I have no doubt that we will.
And what I think will happen is, if there is policy that-- the market will be the ultimate judge of these things-- and so if policy comes out and it misses the mark, you have a violent reaction. Policymakers will come back and modify it. And so we're all-- you know, no one really has experience going through something like this from such a broad perspective. And so we should expect some policies to hit the mark, some to be probably too much and some to be too little. But we'll be constantly recalibrated as we learn new things.
From my perspective and my team's perspective, we're really focusing on defensive tactics right now, but with the eye to the foreseeable future that we're going to be in a place where we've seen a tremendous repricing of markets, but from a valuation perspective-- and certainly as you go through this pandemic, valuations is not as an important thing, short-term-- but longer term, we're basically looking at adding assets that are going to provide us really high quality returns in the next few years to come. So we are managing the short-term kind of high volatility, but also looking at the opportunities that are opening up across the world where really, really high quality companies are trading at much discounted prices.
KIM PARLEE: I now I've spoken with you and many others when they-- did they take a look at, hear in the headlines, a bear market, and that's not a headline that anyone likes to see. Something that's interesting about this one-- I know from when I talked to you and other members of your team-- that this seems to be more event-driven, versus when you look back in history at the 2008 financial crisis, where it was more-- there was a problem with the system.
MICHAEL CRAIG: Right, this is very, very different than 2008. 2008 was all about misallocation of money into the household market in the US and too much leverage in banks. That's not the case today. I think the better comparison is more to 2001, to be quite frank, where you had a shock that kind of came out of nowhere. I actually think this is probably much more severe because it's affecting multiple countries around the world, not just the United States. But shocks tend to be very sharp, very violent, but they don't tend to be long-lasting.
And so it's quite amazing when you start looking at how industry is changing to support this-- companies in the UK switching from making airplane engines to ventilators, looking at fragrance companies moving to retool their supply chains to make hand sanitizers. It's actually quite tremendous when you see the reaction from industry to support the battle against a dangerous disease. So my sense is that as we get later into this year, this will pass. And we're starting to already see kind of peak infections starting to slow down in places like South Korea, China, et cetera.
And what we'll find is we're going to be in an environment with tremendous stimulus, a ton of pent up demand, because if we're all going to stay at home not doing much for the next three months, as soon as we get the all-clear signal, we're all going to want to go for dinner and start to live life again. And that's going to be a huge release of demand in the economy. And you'll see a very positive reaction in equity markets.
KIM PARLEE: It's interesting because so much of this plays to human behavior and the fight or flight kind of reflexes come through. And it's so important when things like this happen, in terms of dealing with their financial planner, keeping your own objectives in mind, and trusting the people that you're working with to help you get to that in times like this. And I know that's something that we've talked about too.
MICHAEL CRAIG: Yeah, I mean, I think people will look back at this much like they might look back at 2009 or 2002 and say, gee, thank goodness I invested then because my longer term returns look spectacular. I can't-- you know, I don't have a crystal ball to see where things will be in a month or two, and I expect to be still seeing lots of volatility, but I also recognize that it's periods like this that on a longer term basis tend to set up really good financial outcomes for investors.
And so I grew up in a house where we were always worried about money because my parents had some tough times. And it was a very, very good lesson early on about how much stress can be when you don't have enough money. It kind of prepared me for this job, quite frankly. And I know people are coming under a lot of stress right now. We are here. We are working right around the clock, making sure that we're going to have good outcomes for investors. And I'm quite excited to see things-- one year from now looking back and seeing the work we've done for investors because I know they're going to be in a good place.
KIM PARLEE: And I think on that we'll bring David back in. Michael, thank you very much. David, any final word?
DAVID: Yeah, I'll just wrap up by reiterating Michael's point. I think from a long-term perspective, if we've got longer term financial goals, both personally as well as organizationally, obviously this is both a concern, but also an opportunity. We want to thank all of our listeners, all of our clients for continuing to trust us for your business. Financial planning and TD experts are working very closely together to be here for you.
I also want to take the opportunity just to remind clients that our EasyWeb online banking allows you to do your banking in comfort and convenience. We've got mobile apps available. ATMs are still operating normally. And so we just want to make sure that we're here for you more broadly than your investing needs, right across all of your banking needs as well. Our financial planners are here to guide you through any of these things, so feel free to reach out to them. They are your primary contact point with TD. And we want to make sure that we're here to support you through what will be both an emotional but also a trying time from both the market as well as a health perspective. So we're pleased to be here to support you through the process.
KIM PARLEE: All right, David, thank you very much. Michael, thank you very much. And Dr. Nicore, thank you very much. And thanks to all of you for listening. We appreciate your time. We appreciate your business. And we'll be in touch again very soon. Thank you.