Caution key word in tackling virus - GulfToday

Caution key word in tackling virus

Coronavirus

There have been some 900 cases around the world, with five deaths in France, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Although China reported its fewest new infections of coronavirus since January and its fewest deaths for a week, the world community needs to remain vigilant as the risks continue to remain enormous.

It should not be forgotten that nearly 1,900 people have now died and more than 72,000 others infected by the virus in China, with hundreds more cases in some 25 countries.

Also, the situation remains dire at the epicentre, with the director of a hospital in the central city of Wuhan becoming the seventh medical worker to succumb to the COVID-19 illness.

There have been some 900 cases around the world, with five deaths in France, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

As World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus insists, it is too early to tell if the decline would continue.

A study released by China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention offers some consolation. It shows the death rate standing at 2.3 per cent, falling below one per cent for people in their 30s and 40s.

The study among 72,000 confirmed, suspected and clinically diagnosed cases showed that 81 per cent of patients had only mild infections.

Those most at risk were the elderly, and people with underlying medical conditions.

The research has been cited by WHO officials, who say the COVID-19 illness is “less deadly” than its cousins, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

But it is higher than the mortality rate for the seasonal flu, at around 0.1 per cent in the United States.

If the virus is not contained soon it may lead to mass layoffs in China and that’s a matter of concern.  

The virus repercussions have been huge globally.

The epidemic has triggered panic-buying in Singapore and Hong Kong, concerns about cruise-ship travel and the postponement of trade fairs, sports competitions and cultural events in China and abroad.

The outbreak is threatening to put a dent in the global economy, with China paralysed by vast quarantine measures and major firms such as iPhone maker Apple and mining giant BHP warning it could damage bottom lines.

Several countries have banned travellers from China and major airlines have suspended flights.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in says the economy is in an emergency situation and requires stimulus as the epidemic disrupted demand for South Korean goods.

Singapore has already announced a $4.5 billion financial package to help contain the outbreak in the city-state and weather its economic impact.

In Japan, where the economy is already shrinking and the epidemic has created fears of recession, the spread of the virus has prompted Tokyo to put limits on public crowds while some companies are telling employees to work from home.

India has banned Chinese wrestlers from this week’s Asian Championships in New Delhi because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva has also been postponed until September due to travel restrictions, as a third of the inventions were to come from mainland China and another third from Hong Kong.

Low- and middle-income countries need greater support for their response to any cases, allowing them access to vaccines, drugs and diagnostic tools.

As of now, countries need to continue enforcing strong measures to detect the disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk.

There’s no scope for laxity on this front.

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