For global economies, the coronavirus [COVID-19] is shaping up to be an unequivocal catastrophe. World stock markets tumbled by 11 percent last week, and are expected to slide further over the next seven days, as China’s factory output nosedives and the virus spreads further afield. And yet, while the world at large reels in the midst of the epidemic, a group of developers and crypto enthusiasts on the controversial internet forum 4Chan seem to have figured out a way for individual investors to profit off the tragedy.
CoronaCoin is a form of cryptocurrency, developed by programmers on 4Chan, that tracks infections and deaths from COVID-19 around the world and deflates in value accordingly. “Total supply is based on the world population (7,604,953,650 NCOV),” the company’s website states, and “token will be burnt once every 48 hours based on the number of INFECTED + FATALITIES, so the token is deflationary; and also non-mintable.”
In other words: the more people COVID-19 infects and kills, the less CoronaCoins there are in supply and the more the remaining currency increases in value. A recent post on a cryptocurrency subreddit puts it even more bluntly: “bet on the coronavirus pandemic by investing on CoronaCoin," it says. "The more the virus spreads the more valuable the token becomes.”
It is “the world's first crypto backed by proof of death,” the company’s website boastfully declares, and developers claim it offers a “unique and interesting way” to track the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in line with official World Health Organisation [WHO] statistics. The latest of those statistics indicate that more than 82,000 people have been infected by the coronavirus around the world. More than 2,700 of those have died in China alone, while 57 more have died in 46 other countries—and there are widespread fears the outbreak could get a lot worse before it gets any better.
Kemp suggests it’s this very fear that is motivating investors to put money behind CoronaCoin. "Some people speculate a large portion of the supply will be burned due to the spread of the virus, so they invest," he told Reuters.
But while the notion of investing in something that profits off infection rates might seem morbid, Kemp also claims the enterprise is being driven—at least in part—by altruistic intentions.
"A portion of funds raised will go to charity,” he said, according to Decrypt, while the company’s website states that 20 percent of the total supply of CoronaToken will be donated to the Red Cross.
“This is our goal, to spread awareness and help fight the virus,” Kemp added. “For example, we are currently in talks with a biochemist who is working to develop drugs to fight the virus. These are the kinds of partnerships we want to build."
While this might be enough to get some people onside—“Thanks… I hope you can bring awareness to the spread of the virus so people are prepared. The media is covering up what is really going on” wrote one Reddit user—others are less than thrilled about CoronaCoin.
“Frankly, this is amoral,” wrote another Reddit user on the same post. “Profiting from people dying from a pandemic? It's amoral. It's disgusting.”
“You should be ashamed,” wrote a third. “I feel sorry for you and the rest of the team who play on people's lives.”