Coronavirus, now in more than 120 countries and counting

As of today, there are close to 160 000 infections around the world. The number of infected outside China is going to exceed those from within China. Europe is the new epicenter of the outbreak, with countries like Italy, Spain, France, and Germany reporting cases in the thousands.

More than 120 countries around the world have reported cases of the Coronavirus.

On the home front in Singapore, we are seeing a sharp increase in the number of cases, a majority of them imported from other countries. These people traveled overseas, caught the virus and got sick and tested positive upon arrival. Today, as of this writing, Singapore reported 14 new cases, the highest reported in a single day, with 9 of them coming from other countries. This is a disturbing trend, because despite putting additional resources in detecting them early on our borders and imposing travel restrictions from places where the virus is spreading rapidly, we are still seeing a rapid number of imported cases.

The tiny good news is that local transmission within the community is still small and manageable. However these imported cases are often not caught at the border as they are largely asymptomatic upon arrival. It is only laters, as they assimilated within our community upon arrival do they see symptoms related to the coronavirus. Each one of these new imported cases is a ticking time bomb, being able to spread to the local community as soon as symptoms appear. If they don’t practice social distancing, avoiding crowded places and refuse to see a doctor at the earliest onset of symptoms, then they are susceptible to spreading to a large number of people around him or her.

It feels like as the second wave of infection are arriving from Europe and the Americas, and with infections on the rise in nearby ASEAN, nations, we are struggling in keeping those numbers down. We are being bombarded with imported cases that have the potential to create a new infectious cluster in Singapore.

Europe is in a very bad state, thousands of new infections reported in total within the EU region with no end in sight. I just hope that imposing a lockdown on the entire nation like what Italy and Spain has done will start to bear fruit and see the numbers of newly infected come down. Europe hasn’t peaked yet, meaning we will see tens of thousands of new cases in the coming week. And the US is just started its upward exponential trajectory of infections.

Coronavirus: Now in 70 countries and counting

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?

Coronavirus, my two-cents

Also known as COVID-19, its been a little over a month since China announced sweeping restrictions on the movement of people during the Lunar New Year Holiday. Entire provinces are shut down, transport networks on land, sea and air is in shambles and tourism around the world is in the doldrums, especially with travel bans imposed by many countries on China. On the trade and economy front, supply chains from the manufacturing of cars to phones have been disrupted, leading to industry-scale manufacturing issues and shortages of goods.

I live in Singapore and we have seen a slow uptick of people getting infected with the virus. The government is doing its best in containing the outbreak and preventing a wider spread of the virus in to the community. So far the efforts have borne fruit as the infections are largely contained to known clusters that various government agencies painstakingly traced through contact tracing. I really applaud their efforts and despite the virus being out there, overall, I trust in their system deeply in keeping us safe. I feel save overall, even when I am outside and in public places. All of us need to do out part by practising good personal hygiene as a first line of defence for an individual. Let the government and health care workers do the rest in keeping us safe.

The consequences of this disease can be felt and seen. Tourism numbers are down, by a lot. This is evident in my time spent at the Merlion Park while I was taking photos of the place with my new Fujifilm X-Pro 3 a couple of weeks earlier. When you singlehandedly band an entire population (Chinese citizens from China) from entering Singapore, naturally, you will lose a significant portion of tourists into the country. While I was there, it was so quiet. Sure, there are a few tourists here and there. But were there large groups of Chinese tourists with their tour leader walking explore Merlion Park? Were there tour buses parked just outside the park. Not a single one of them were there. It is with my understanding that the Merlion Park is usually riddled with tourists no matter what day of the week. I was there in the afternoon on a Friday, and it was disturbingly quiet. You can almost feel a shift in the air that something has changed. Something has gone terribly wrong and this COVID-19 is the cause of it. With more 75 000 people infected with the virus, most of them in China, dealing with an unknown is always scary, especially with a novel virus like COVID-19.

I went to Orchard Road, a popular shopping belt in Singapore on two weekends, and the atmosphere was different. There were hardly any tourists. The people who were there, were mostly Singaporeans. It was initially difficult to wrap my head around the idea that you hardly see large crowds in Orchard Road on a Weekend. Where have they gone? The different in the number of people in Orchard Road before and after the spread of the virus is palpable. You can feel it. Personally, I feel sorry for those who are working in the retail industry. They must be hit pretty hard as a result of COVID-19. Tourism forms a significant portion of Singapore’s GDP. With one month and counting, the effects are going to get worse as the time goes by. The tourism industry in Singapore and in the rest of the world is bleeding badly. Every day we don’t have tourists for China, is a significant loss for the country, especially those who depend on them for their livelihoods.

No one can predict when this virus will stop spreading and blow over. Personally, I feel that we will be in this conundrum for quite a while, because so long as china reports a significant amount of new infection without their ability to track down where those clusters originate, it will be a difficult call to make as to when the government and lift travel restrictions of Chinese citizen to Singapore. We cannot be complacent as it takes only 1 person to develop an illness, and spread to other people, forming an infectious cluster. Because of nature of the virus, it being highly infectious and its ease of transmissibility between people, There has to be a significant reduction in the number of new infections, or no new infections followed by another 14 days to ensure that it maintains it so, because travel curbs can be lifted.

And now, we are seeing new and worrying trends of significant spread in Korea, Iran, Japan among the local population. If contact tracing is overwhelmed due to a sheer number of new infections in a day, and if they don’t act quickly to contain the spread, then it is essentially fighting a losing battle. Mass quarantine of entire towns, counties and cities will have to be impose in order to truly slow down the spread of the virus.

It’s scary to see how much a dent this virus can put on the world economy, especially if this issue drags on for months into the future. China can only do so much to cushion the impact of the epidemic. Eventually, the rest of the world will be hurt badly. Like a sick man in an ICU, as he stays there longer, first days, then weeks, the body will change. He will start losing weight, then lose muscle mass, followed by mental acuity. This wasting is what the world is experiencing now, where the economy is concerned. We only have so much in reserve, soon, everyone will feel the pinch if this drags on longer than anyone predicted. At this stage, so long as we see local outbreaks of COVID-19 somewhere around the world, the world will never go back to normal anytime soon.