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What we know about the potential impact of the novel coronavirus

Since its initial detection in December 2019, the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has continued its remorseless path across the globe. While public health officials continue to monitor the virus, risk managers and businesses are already identifying its disruptive impact to public health and global supply chains.

Analysts across Verisk similarly have been engaged in tracking and modeling the potential spread and impact of the virus, as well as devising coronavirus insurance coverage options to help cope with the possible fallout.

Here’s a look at what we’ve learned about SARS-CoV-2 and the resulting disease now called COVID-19.

Humanity is no stranger to coronaviruses

While this strain of coronavirus is in the news, coronavirus itself is a fairly routine pathogen—variants of the virus are responsible for everything from the common cold to the deadly SARS and MERS virus outbreaks.1

It spreads easily but kills rarely

To date, analysts at AIR Worldwide estimate that the coronavirus has a relatively high transmissibility rate (or R0 value, in epidemiological parlance) of between 2 and 3—meaning that one infected individual has the capacity to spread the virus to an average of two to three people.2

On the other hand, the virus appears to have a relatively low case fatality rate, killing an estimated 1-to-2 percent of those it infects. That’s a lower case fatality rate than  SARS or MERS, but a slightly higher rate than the 2019-2020 flu season in the U.S.3 COVID-19 poses a more acute risk to those with pre-existing conditions (particularly heart disease) and the elderly.

Globally connected countries with international transport hubs appear most at risk

While SARS-CoV-2 has spread to over 45 countries, some are more at risk of a rapid rate of transmission than others.4 According to Maplecroft’s Pandemic Transmission index, risk factors include how densely populated and urbanized a country is, the volume of inbound flights from international destinations, and the degree of physical connectivity. Maplecroft’s Pandemic Susceptibility and Healthcare Capacity indices provide additional perspectives on the issue. Finally, the subnational Physical Connectivity index is shown to be a statistically significant predictor of the number of coronavirus cases for provinces in mainland China.

China’s GDP will likely feel the pinch and it may not be alone

If past pandemics are prologue, China’s GDP could suffer as a result of the outbreak. During the SARS outbreak, China lost between 1 and 2 points off its GDP in 2003. According to an analysis from Verisk Maplecroft, SARS-CoV-2 may prove even more economically disruptive given the current economic uncertainty surrounding the U.S.-China trade war and China’s transition from a manufacturing to a more service-oriented economy.

Countries tied to the Chinese economy may also experience negative disruptions, though Maplecroft expects that major importers of Chinese goods—many of which are in South East Asia—are likely to face the greatest turbulence.

ISO has responded to the pandemic with new coverage options

Given the possibility of business interruption caused by government efforts to stop the spread of the disease, ISO has developed two advisory, optional endorsements for use with existing ISO Commercial Property business interruption coverage. You can learn more about those new coverages here.

Additionally, the ISO Emerging Issues team has been posting regular updates to the Emerging Issues Pandemic topic page to keep ISOnet subscribers updated on the latest news and analysis surrounding this dynamic risk. For the most recent updates, ISOnet subscribers can sign up for the ISO Emerging Issues Weekly Digest, which is distributed every Monday.

To learn more about the novel coronavirus, its business impact and ISO’s new coverage options, watch the webinar on demand: Coronavirus Threat: Verisk Perspectives on a Global Risk.

  1. Q&A on Coronaviruses (COVID-19), World Health Organization, February 23, 2020, < >, accessed on February 28, 2020.
  2. Narges Dorratoltaj, et al, “Estimating the Transmissibility of the Novel Coronavirus,” AIR Worldwide, January 30, 2020, < >, accessed on February 28, 2020.
  3. Rachael Rettner, “How does the new coronavirus compare with the flu?”, LiveScience, February 19, 2020, < >, accessed February 28, 2020.
  4. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report - 38, World Health Organization, February 27, 2020, < >, accessed on February 28, 2020.

Narges Dorratoltaj

Narges Dorratoltaj, Ph.D., MPH is a computational epidemiologist and leads the Life and Health modeling team at Verisk. She can be reached at

Niall Smith

Niall Smith is senior quantitative analyst, environment at Verisk Maplecroft. He can be reached at

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