back to article Resellers facing 'months' of delays for orders to be fulfilled. IT gathers dust on docks as coronavirus-stricken China goes back to work

The virus that causes COVID-19 continues to hit technology supply chains as vendors struggle to produce and ship stock following a slowdown in China, where the illness was first detected. Orders from UK customers for SSDs, Surface Go, cabling, HP and Lenovo laptops and HPE servers have all been affected while resellers …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Just an FYI

    The WHO Situation Report 51 states that there are, as of yesterday, 118 322 confirmed cases, and 4 292 deaths worldwide.

    That is a mortality rate of 3.6%.

    Not 1%.

    Not 0.1%.

    I thought it might be useful to say that, because there are some people out there who still think that COVID-19 is nothing more than the common cold.

    It isn't.

    Oh, and by the way, it's not getting better. The sitrep from a month ago had 2 560 new cases to report. Yesterday, there were 4 623 new cases. That's over 50% more new cases.

    In one month.

    1. BebopWeBop

      Re: Just an FYI

      A reasonable reminder. However, I would also add that reporting has been very sketchy, not least in Iran and the US (united over something at last) where the latter's sketchy testing, reporting and failing health system (for a goodly part of the population), not to mention the masterly step of damaging the CDC have contributed to the confusion.

      So yes, as reported you are correct, and it might or might not be consistent with realities, but it may well be difficult to say.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        You are correct to outline that, but given that China counts for more than two thirds of cases, the impact of the USA's failure to properly manage the crisis (which is, apparently, slowly being reversed) is likely unimportant at this time.

        When the US Government has pulled its finger out and gotten down to business, the actual numbers will probably not change more than if it had done its job properly in the first place.

        1. BebopWeBop

          True - and it will be interesting to see some estimates of the errors in reporting post hoc.

        2. MGJ

          China is not the world

          Are these mortality figures normalised for the amount of pollution in China, or indeed for the higher levels of tobacco smoking? Italy has the oldest population in Europe, so if the disease kills the old, then it will affect Italy the most. But why is Japan fine (relatively) so far, given its population is even older?

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: China is not the world

            Much healthier population and much stricter in hygiene. One other contributing factor is the way people usually greet each other (Japanese bow, Italians kiss).

          2. Danny Boyd

            Re: China is not the world

            The highest mortality rate is observed not in China, not in Iran, but in Italy - close to 5%. So pollution probably helps.

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: China is not the world

              Pollution is way worse in China than in Italy, so doesn't explain anything.

          3. Filippo Silver badge

            Re: China is not the world

            Italy has a whole lot more physical touch in its culture.

            Italy has good hygiene, but I think the Japanese top almost everyone on that front (although I may just going by stereotypes there).

            The Japanese seem not to mind wearing masks in general, and I bet they used them a whole lot more very quickly once news of the virus popped up.

            The virus in Italy seems to have gotten into a couple of hospitals before being detected, and hospitals are clusters of elderly population activity.

            I think it's a mix of the above factors.

            Also, the numbers of infected people are unreliable, because you can't test everyone and a lot of victims have actually very mild symptoms and probably won't get tested.

            The proportion of infected that actually get discovered probably varies wildly between countries, depending on which detection and containment strategies are employed. That will in turn make mortality rate comparisons sketchy.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: China is not the world

            Japan learnt from the SARS crisis in 2003 and put that experience to good use now.

        3. Duncan Macdonald

          Expect more problems

          Look at the following websites to see why the problem is going to get worse before it gets better

        4. martinusher Silver badge

          >When the US Government has pulled its finger out and gotten down to business

          The good news is that there is more than one "US Government". The Federal government has been slow to react because of problems within the Trump administration (they're more concerned with optics than public health). The states most affected by the virus at the moment are sizable, they're larger both phsically and econmically than many countries, so they're in a position to manage the problem. (Not being able to rely on D.C. also means they're used to working together.)

          The real issue is the way that health insurance works in the US. Since its tied to employment for the most part and employment tends to be precarious for many, if not most, people there's no mechanism for people to take time off if they're unwell. Its true that the Federal government has mandated that there be no out of pocket expenses for coronavirus testing but the same doesn't apply for treatment. Since being off work sick isn't an option for most people -- companies like the one I have been working at allow you a maximum of three days a year before taking it out of your (meager) vacation allowance before its unpaid -- there's a lot of incentive for people to avoid testing, avoid treatment and definitely avoid taking time off. This has the potential to really spread the virus if ti gets loose and it also means we won't have much of an idea about how its spreading in the community.

          What will work in our favor is geography. The US is big and many parts of it are sparsely populated.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            What will work in our favor is geography. The US is big and many parts of it are sparsely populated.

            Which is completely countered by the frequent flights between high density population centers.

    2. Julz

      Re: Just an FYI

      There are a a large number of unconfirmed yet real cases out there which will lower that headline figure a great deal.

      No it's not a common cold, it's a novel virus which the vast majority of us humans don't seem to have immunity to. The virus also seems to be quiet contagious. This will in all likelihood lead to a significant proportion, if not a majority of us getting it in the next few weeks and months. The genie is out of the bottle. It is a pandemic. It is happening. All we can do now, like in the vast majority of other threats, is decide on how we are going to react to it.

      I don't see that panicking gets us anywhere. Life's a crap shoot at the best of times and this would seem not to be one of the best of times. Being considerate to others and not over reacting to what is just another of many threats to life that has de-cloaked out of the mists of obscurity seems like a good place to start.

      I shall be carrying on much the same as normal apart from being more careful of hand hygiene, which would seem to be a good idea anyway. A bit early here, but I'm sure I'll be having a beer in the local later. Cheers.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: Just an FYI

        I would agree with most of your post except this: "There are a a large number of unconfirmed yet real cases out there which will lower that headline figure a great deal."

        Not necessarily. The stats are probably behind, but so are the mortality figures. There's not a great reason to think that "because I understand stats, the WHO mortaility estimate is wrong" --- those guys understand stats, too.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just an FYI

          The BBC's MoreOrLess programme looked at the mortality stats (with experts in pandemic stats) and concluded that we don't (and probably never will) know the true mortality rate:

          a) The death rate needs to be referenced to the date the virus was encountered, so a death today should be in relation to the infection numbers, say, two weeks ago (and that period will vary for each case, so impossible to be precise). Ignoring this reduces the headline mortality rate.

          b) The majority of infections are mild and go unreported - only those actually tested get into the headline figure. Ignoring this increases the headline mortality rate.

          c) There will be deaths (accelerated by COVID-19) that aren't included in the statistics because underlying issues meant COVID-19 wasn't considered. This effect is becoming less significant now because we are on the lookout for the virus.

          d) Statistics relating deaths to hospitalised infections are valuable but not relevant for the broader picture.

          The best guess at the moment seems to be 1-3%, but unreported cases could mean it's really below 1%.

          So, overall, we don't really know, other than it's very infectious but, for the majority of the population, the health impact is limited. It's the ideal (for the virus) evolutionary outcome...

          1. John H Woods Silver badge

            Re: Just an FYI

            Again, I would say that the WHO have experts in pandemic stats, from the same pool as those on the radio. Of course the "real" mortality rate (there isn't such a thing, really, it's not a property solely of the virus) could be under 1%. But it is still not the case that it could be 'a great deal' lower. If the best guess of the experts is 1-3%, a figure from the WHO largely agreed by the experts on More or Less and elsewhere, commentards need to provide better than "There are a a large number of unconfirmed yet real cases out there" to prove that "will lower that headline figure a great deal."

            That was my only criticism of Julz post, and I'm not convinced that it doesn't still stand.

            PS: I consider 'a great deal' in this case to be at least half an order of magnitude, if not a whole one.

          2. Tom 38

            Re: Just an FYI

            The majority of infections are mild and go unreported - only those actually tested get into the headline figure. Ignoring this increases the headline mortality rate.

            This argument does not fill me with joy. The argument goes like this: "Only the serious cases get reported, so the actual death rate is lower than N(deaths)/N(cases), this isn't much worse than flu". It's specious, because people with flu, in general, do not go to the doctor and get reported as "having flu" either - because there is naff all they can do for you.

            Most people have immune systems with experience of flu, meaning that a lot of the people exposed to flu do not catch flu. People have no such experience of covid-19, so we can expect to see a higher proportion of people who are exposed to it actually catching it, compared to the flu.

            I saw some terrible right wing memes today, worst was "I eat my sandwiches with dirty hands from working, do you think I'm scared of some flu?"...

            1. LovesTha

              Re: Just an FYI

              Fairly sure flu mortality rates use population survey data to determine a realistic rate of infection in the community. These are the types of things that can be done to seasonal infections that can't be done to a novel virus.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Just an FYI

              Something I haven't yet seen picked up from recent UK government announcements is the fact that the pandemic won't be over until a significant number of the population have been infected, recovered and have immunity (providing the herd immunity that protects the vulnerable). That is unless we manage things so badly it continues until there is a widely available, safe and effective vaccine (which is unlikely until late 2021, even if all the R&D goes well).

              With China now releasing figures that show the infection rate there is under control, I wonder how long they'll maintain the current controls. Perhaps China will, but I doubt any western democracy will be able to do that for long. Reduce infection by strict quarantine usually means strict quarantine is needed to maintain the low rate; relax and the infection rate is likely to rise again.

              The UK policy of recognising we can't stop infection in the short/medium term, instead to manage it so it remains manageable, is, in my view, the better approach. It means that most of us will get infected at some point but, if we can protect the more vulnerable people for now, herd protection (and an eventual vaccine) will protect them in the longer term. It will be uncomfortable for a while...

          3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

            Re: Just an FYI

            With respect to More or Less, they'll conduct studies looking for Covid-19 antibodies and use that to estimate how many people have been exposed. (Apparently such programmes are already under way in China.) Once the infection has damped down, you can use that to get a good estimate of the death rate. That covers (b) and (b) is probably the predominant source of error. And (a) is neutered by looking at the infection as a whole.

            The UK's death rate is certainly inflated because the NHS have only been testing people who have come back from an affected region or have come into contact with an infected person. (At one point they weren't even testing people admitted to hospital with pneumonia.) Although, without some limit, everybody with a cough would want a test.

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Just an FYI

        "I'm sure I'll be having a beer in the local later"

        Enjoy it while you can, there's a good chance that soon the pub will be shut, whether due to government mandate, or just all their staff being off sick.

    3. iron Silver badge

      Re: Just an FYI

      And the important part of all that is "confirmed cases." There are also unconfirmed cases plus you probably can't trust the figures coming out of secretive states like China and USA which will lower the figure. 3.6% is not correct.

      1. BebopWeBop

        Re: Just an FYI

        Well even with those numbers the decimal point is probably irrelevant at the moment. But you are correct - the numbers are incorrect.

    4. KarMann Silver badge

      Re: Just an FYI

      That's one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it, giving you the maximum likely value, is the number of deaths divided by the number of deaths plus the number of recovered, leaving out those who still have it. That worst-case scenario, 4641/(4641+68300), gives you up to 6.4% mortality rate. The actual rate will be somewhere between the two.

      1. LovesTha

        Re: Just an FYI

        The lower bound is deaths / entire population. (Unless people can readily be infected more than once)

        And even then both of our bounds are wrong as the deaths count can be wrong in both directions (some deaths that were caused by it were not tested for it and some number of positive tests are false positives)

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Just an FYI

      "That is a mortality rate of 3.6%."

      Putting THAT in context - it's slightly higher than the mortality rate of the "Spanish Flu" pandemic that devastated the world at the end of WW1

      HOWEVER: Spanish flu tended to kill the healthiest individuals in populations by triggering Cytokine Storms in their immune systems(*). _So far_ Coronavirus is reportedly hitting the elderly and those with underlaying medical conditions but even so the caution is justified (But not the mass panic buying of TP - are people mutating into Cornholio? - and as for hand sanitiser, stopping viral spread relies on OTHER people being able to wash their hands too!)

      What really irks me is that the "surgical masks" being flogged are utterly useless for virus control (or smog filtering, which is what they're usually worn for) as air simply goes around the side of them and they primarily achieve provision of a false sense of security.

      (*) This brings up why the vaccine path is slow - back in the early-mid 2000s around 25 healthy volunteers in the UK had cytokine storms triggered by whatever was being tested at the time - several died and NONE of the rest regained full health - they all had extensive, permanent lung damage that's effectively made them "disabled".

      1. MJB7

        Re: Just an FYI

        My understanding was that masks *do* help prevent infection. Not because they stop you inhaling infected droplets, but because they stop you touching your face (which is the commonest infection route).

        At that, they are about as effective as frequent hand washing - but at a much higher cost (both financial and social).

        1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Re: Just an FYI

          I guess they also help prevent you from spreading your germs to others. I saw something last year about how the Japanese perceived obsession with avoiding bugs by wearing masks is actually the opposite - it's them being polite and not breathing/coughing their germs onto other people.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Just an FYI

            The whole point of the masks is to protect others.

            They stop you coughing and sneezing droplets over other people, as well as reminding you to not touch your face.

            The reason that they are big in polite countries is that it is considered rude to infect other people - even with regular non-lethal colds

      2. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: Just an FYI

        You get an upvote for the Beavis and Butthead reference.

        I have no idea why people are going nutso on toilet paper either- Kleenex, I can understand. Hand sanitizer, I can understand. but TP?

    6. c1ue

      Re: Just an FYI

      Deaths are the only hard statistic - and they are the numerator.

      The denominator is unknown except that it is higher than the known confirmed cases.

      However, what really matters is that the novel coronavirus has a dramatically different mortality rate depending on your age.

      Over 60 - really not good.

      Under 10 - basically 0 chance of death.

      10 to 50 - under 1%

    7. Cereberus

      Re: Just an FYI

      Whilst the figures may be correct it still feels to me like you are scare mongering..

      The figures quoted are confirmed cases as reported by the various countries, health agencies, etc. and does not include any kind of margin of error which is quite an important factor when throwing these kind of statistics around.

      Firstly the quoted mortality is believed to be around 2% overall.

      Not 1%

      Not 0.1%

      Not 3.6% either

      There is a reasonable position that the actual mortality rate will be less than this. Take the UK for example, just over 596 confirmed cases with 10 people having dies so far so slightly over 2%. It is believed there may be 5,000 to 10,000 people infected without realising who think they have a cold or flu. Taking the lower figure that would mean the mortality rate would be something like 0.2% of those affected and not of the population

      Globally it will obviously differ due to the effectiveness of dealing with the problem, and the local health services capabilities but throwing out unsubstantiated figures doesn't help.

      Also quoting the increase in cases as a major issue won't help. Anyone following the details will be more than aware the figures are expected to ramp up to potentially extremely high numbers.

      Whilst this is a serious issue, it should not be made into something it is not which can cause fear and panic (including panic buying) which could end up making things worse.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Just an FYI

        One thing that will drive up the mortality rate is a lack of sufficient hospital beds for the severe cases. People who would make it through with good care won't if they can't get the necessary treatment. This happened in Wuhan (China) and is happening now in northern Italy. When hospitals get swamped, mortality can easily reach 5%.

    8. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just an FYI

      The 3.6% mortality rate is almost certainly too high, because of unreported mild and asymptomatic cases of coronavirus. However, there is a competing dynamic that pushes up the mortality rate.

      First, the number of active cases includes a lot of new cases that, to put it bluntly, "haven't had time to die yet". These cases just started the disease state, and some of them will pass away from the disease.

      Second, some of the deaths will have been attributed to other causes, such as more non-specific pneumonia, heart problems or sepsis.

      Overall, I think an actual mortality rate between 1% and 2% is a pretty good estimate, and we won't know the truth until the pandemic is pretty much over.

  2. The Mighty Biff

    Joe Rogan interviewed Michael Osterholm a couple of day ago. I'm not sure I quite believe his worst case predictions but maybe that's because they're worst case predictions...

  3. Commswonk

    Hang On A Minute...

    The tech industry has become concerned about the restricted supply of components coming out of Hubei province, where the city of Wuhan, ground zero for the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (aka COVID-19), is located. "So many supply chains route back to China, or at some point, even if even the manufacturers assembled their product in other countries, they still rely on components coming from China," Nethercot said.

    The "tech industry" has been happy to increasingly rely on a near single - source (i.e. China) for both its components and completed assemblies or sub - assemblies. This used to be called "putting all your eggs in one basket" with all the risks that accompany that approach, and yet now we find ourselves witnessing a load of hand - wringing because supply chains have been disrupted.

    Although outbreaks of infections such as COVID-19 might not be an everyday occurrence the SARS epidemic of the early 2000s should have been warning enough about what could happen in the event of a repeat performance, perhaps involving something worse.

    I find myself wondering if those companies that find they cannot obtain the hardware that they need have force majeure clauses in their supply contracts, and if they haven't why not? If they haven't then they only have themselves to blame for the consequences.

    I'd rather reserve my sympathies with those who have had to misfortune to catch the disease, or have died as a result (or have had a relative die) along with those who find themselves quarantined - perhaps far from home - or if not in self - imposed or enforced isolation unable to return because flights have been cancelled.

    1. ParasiteParty

      Re: Hang On A Minute...

      Agreed entirely. This is what happens when you rely on slave labour in order to drive prices down and profits up. This is one of the downsides of globalisation - so suck it up global firms and reconsider your future.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Hang On A Minute...

      "Although outbreaks of infections such as COVID-19 might not be an everyday occurrence the SARS epidemic of the early 2000s should have been warning enough about what could happen in the event of a repeat performance, perhaps involving something worse."

      The Chinese _central_ government took the warning from SARS very seriously indeed.

      The problem has been regional and local government trying to cover things up and pretend the issue doesn't exist (remember one local government literally tried to bury an entire crashed high speed trainset before investigators could arrive to find out how it had happened - during the SARS outbreak one mayor is reputed to have stated "there will be no SARS cases in my city!" - and indeed none were _reported_, but the death toll was quite high there)

      China may well be planned and governed at the centre by engineers, but the edges are far more nepotistic and jobsworthian than the USA is (although unlike the USA, they're working on eliminating that)

    3. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo Silver badge

      Re: Hang On A Minute...

      It's not that they hadn't have opportunity to learn. There are single points of failure all over the place.

      When there was heavy flooding in Thailand in 2011, a sizable chunk of global hard disk manufacturing was sunk.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Hang On A Minute...

        And decades before the Kobe earthquake took out the one chemical plant in the world that made the plastic that encapsulated chips.

        The problem is that it's expensive to have multiple suppliers. Having a copy of your multi billion $ fab in another country and buy half your wafers/reagents/etc from the more expensive supplier.

  4. Marc 13

    Distributors with stock are cleaning up

    Had to flex up a client's on prem VMWare estate to support the new WFH platform... CPUs out of stock / back-order for weeks thanks to intel's CPU issues. Eventually found them at near double the list price for 3 day delivery. Client said yes because they want everyone to be able to WFH if needed.

    Next on the list, a bunch of users with no suitable device at home to WFH. Call to the usual dist'y for laptop options... none, someone cleared out their entire 400 unit stock 30 mins earlier at full margin.

    We ended up with top spec surfaces instead (at full margin ££££)

    The channel with stock is wearing the minted jacket.


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Normalising martial law. Thats the real worry.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Once upon a time there was a concept of dual sourcing. That went away. Then there were the floods in Thailand hitting hard drive supplies. You might have thought that the industry would have re-learned that lesson. Clearly not. Will it be different this time?

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Will it be different this time?

      No chance whatsoever, not while it has a negative impact on the bottom line (and customer satisfaction doesn't show there).

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        And they won't learn from this one, either, I can practically guarantee it.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          And they won't learn from this one, either, I can practically absolutely guarantee it.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It would seem that "disaster recovery" and "business continuity" are only practices that are used in (some, and probably too few) datacenter operations. If you sell your soul and mortgage the future of your tech company to components made in a single polity, you get congratulated on your efficiency and receive a nice, fat bonus check. Until that polity can't deliver due to war/disease/political unrest/other natural disaster.

  7. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    The mortality rate will not be known for a long time

    The figures always look bad initially because it's easy to count the numbers that die, but impossible to count the numbers of people who have the disease and take a few days off before going back to work. Yes - it's bad if you die but it appears that the majority of people have few symptoms beyond feeling like they have the cold and the flu, cough a bit, feel sick for a bit and then get better. Until testing becomes widespread these people do not count as infected so the bad numbers always look worse initially.

    1. Warm Braw

      Re: The mortality rate will not be known for a long time

      it's bad if you die

      It's (probably) bad for you as an individual. There may come a point at which the need to continue with basic services means you have to start making choices between the number of people who may die from Covid-19 and the number of people who may die as a result of strict social isolation measures. And possibly their relative value to society. That judgment will have to be made on the figures available at the time. Knowing a number in hindsight isn't really going to help, we just have to be aware of the limitations of the information at our disposal.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: The mortality rate will not be known for a long time

        It's (probably) bad for you as an individual.

        No "probably" about it on the individual level. On the national level, it might even be good. How much do you want to bet that after this Medicare and Medicaid in the USA are solvent again?

  8. VibhorTyagi

    IT Professionals should Engineer AI that tracks the productivity lost...

    The entire global commerce is expected to drop by 15-25% by the time the entire coronavirus pandemic is abated. There are many of us who engineer AI bots and machines, who are also struck with the gigantic hammer of Covid-19's (novel coronavirus) spread. However, unlike most other industries, the IT industry is expected to be less affected than most (some might say that it'll see a sharp rise!). The nations should develop and engineer AI to track the loss of productivity (as they are actively tracking the number of infected) around the world. Comprehensive analysis would benefit the various industries which would be facing sure loss in the months to come.

    ~Vibhor Tyagi (Techie at Engineer.AI)

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