Just a couple of weeks ago, I gave my own personal opinion of how I feel about the novel Coronavirus that is spreading all over the world, in particular, China, toward the end of February. At that time, the world was fixated on China. Many were asking: Can China contain the outbreak? Were measures that the Chinese government implemented to control the spread of the virus effective in containing the spread among local communities? How many more infections and death will be see before infection rates taper off and start to decrease? We are now seeing the effects of those measures and they have largely been effective. But while those extreme measures that China impose on its people to restrict its movement and consequently, limit the spread, is working, the country will now have to grapple with the virus that could potentially come from another country.
Who would have thought that within a week or so, the number of people infected with the virus in South Korea would increase from around 50 to 5000? South Korea is not the only one having to grapple with a sudden surge of infections within their own country. Outside of Asia, we are seeing hotspots in the Middle East, in particular Iran, and Europe, like France, Germany and worst affected of all, Italy. These hotspots are increasing the likelihood that the world will experience a global pandemic, regardless of how effective China is dealing with this outbreak at this point of time. Even if China can keep new infections low and lift travel curbs within the country, they now have to deal with potential infections from travellers entering China.
We are now seeing a slow burn of the disease spreading through various communities in the USA. Like a hot, glowing goal that refuses to die, hot enough to still burn. No doubt, we will be seeing a lot more Coronavirus cases in the coming days and weeks as people who are infected start to show symptoms of the disease. By then, its too late to do comprehensive contact tracing for these people as local transmissions has already happen.
The world is now approaching the 100k milestone in terms of the number of people infected since the beginning of the outbreak that occured in Wuhan, China. The WHO has not yet declared a pandemic, but all signs point to one. With 70 countries now having cases of the disease within their borders, and the numbers creeping up as new infections are detected from various countries on a daily basis, I think the world cannot afford another South Korea style surge of new cases anywhere. Containing and mitigating the spread of the virus in South Korea, Iran and Italy is already a headache of the world (just look at the damage been done in terms of the number of new infections originating from Iran and Italy).
Right now, living in Singapore, I am truly grateful to have an effective government doing all its best to protect its citizens and implement measures that are sensible and manageable to keep the number of new infections low. We have been lucky. Singapore has been lucky. We have over a hundred cases now, but we have yet to see large surges in new infections. But all these efforts of containment and mitigation will be in vain, if the rest of the world burns. It is simply impossible to close off out borders completely, just so that we prevent importing new cases from other countries.
I also want to applaud all the front line healthcare staff who put their lives at risk on a daily basis to not only keep us safe, but protect and health and wellbeing of those infected. I don’t want to jinx it, but despite having more than a hundred cases, there hasn’t been a single death. I think that is largely due to the professionalism of all the front line health care staff, doctors, nurses as well as our overall health care system that we have here in Singapore.
Is this the pandemic of my generation? Will this be the pandemic that I will tell to my children?