Battle against COVID-19 seems to be long-drawn and tough
Tackling the coronavirus, COVID-19, has become a Herculean task around the globe. Its relentless expansion across several countries leaves much cause for worry. South Korea has been forced to go on highest alert following a sharp jump in coronavirus cases and its officials ordered to take “unprecedented, powerful” steps, while Italy and Iran had to undertake their own drastic containment measures as the epidemic continues to take its toll. As of Sunday, some 77,000 people had been infected and over 2,440 had died across mainland China, the majority in and around Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, where the outbreak was first reported. Outside mainland China there have been over 24 deaths and more than 1,500 infections reported, with the most cases concentrated in South Korea and the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off Japan. President Xi Jinping’s remark that the coronavirus epidemic is Communist China’s “largest public health emergency” since its founding in 1949 is a rare acknowledgment by a Chinese leader and highlights the gravity of the situation. The worldwide impact has been overwhelming as could be gauged by the cancellation of major events. The last two days of the Venice Carnival, which draws tourists from around the world, have been cancelled. The World Athletics Indoor Championships, scheduled for Nanjing from March 13-15, has been postponed until next year. Soccer matches in northern Italy and China are among other sporting events postponed. Tokyo Metropolitan Government has stated it would either cancel or postpone major indoor events it has sponsored for the next three weeks. The economic fallout cannot be ignored. It is good that finance officials from the Group of 20 major economies agreed on Sunday to continue monitoring the risk from the coronavirus outbreak and adopt appropriate policies to limit the global economic impact.
Considering the circumstances, it is not surprising that the Group’s gathering in Riyadh was dominated by growing concern over the widening fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, with the International Monetary Fund predicting it would shave 0.1 percentage point off global growth. As prevention is anytime better than cure, the public should adopt protective health behaviour to avoid infectious diseases, including washing their hands with soap and clean water, and covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing to stop the spread of germs and viruses. One can take some comfort from the fact that, according to the available studies to date issued by the World Health Organisation, WHO, more than 80 per cent of patients who have mild symptoms such as fever and coughing are recovering. It has also indicated that the death rate from COVID19 does not exceed 0.2 per cent. Nonetheless, the battle against the virus seems to be long-drawn and tough. Lethargy cannot be an option.