COVID-19: Recent Developments

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus strain in Wuhan last December, over 69,000 people have been affected globally with a death toll of 1669, turning this infection into a deadly epidemic. 4 deaths have been reported in countries outside China including Hong Kong, Philippines, Japan and France which was the latest addition to the list on February 15. The virus which was vaguely referred to as the Wuhan coronavirus or novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV) was officially named Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on February 11, 2020, by the World Health Organisation.

A map showing the distribution of COVID-19 (Source: WHO)

China’s Progress Against COVID-19

In addition to all the research in labs and tireless efforts of healthcare workers, China’s central bank has now reportedly joined hands in an attempt to contain the virus spread by disinfecting and storing used banknotes before circulating them again.

Following Chinese Foreign Minister Wan Yi’s statement that there has been a drop in the number of infections within Hubei and areas outside the province for 11 consecutive days, stranded residents of Hubei and its capital city, Wuhan have slowly started returning to the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, Beijing warns its citizens returning to Wuhan to go into a compulsory quarantine period of 14 days or risk facing punishment.

In the midst of all the chaos surrounding the COVID-19 epidemic in China, a silent work-from-home revolution has started to make a place for itself. A financial news outlet, Eastmoney, published a report foreseeing the permanent evolution of Chinese work culture into remote operations. Despite initial downfalls such as high web traffic which led to lags and interruptions, the work-from-home culture is starting to receive positive feedback leading to discussions on making it a permanent routine.

The Doomed Diamond Princess

The Diamond Princess which has been docked at Daikoku Pier, Yokohama, Japan since February 3, has reported the highest number of infected people outside China. As of February 16, the total count aboard the cruise liner was 356. Following the 14-day quarantine period of the cruise liner that is due to end on February 19, Japanese officials have confirmed that staggered disembarkation will commence on February 21.

The Diamond Princess docked at Daikoku Pier, Yokohama, Japan (Source: Time)

US, Canada and Hong Kong are all set to evacuate their citizens from the cruise liner with Hong Kong Security Bureau announcing a free flight home for their citizens upon receiving clearance from Japanese officials. Canadian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement informing Canadians on board the ship that they will be screened for symptoms before boarding and that those exhibiting symptoms will be held back for treatment in Japanese health care facilities.

As of February 16, the US embassy in Tokyo informed Americans on board that the US was planning to evacuate 400 Americans back home without testing them first. Those who choose not to board will be quarantined for a further 14-day period in Japan before being cleared to board commercial flights back home. This decision by the US government has received severe backlash from Americans on board who were concerned about travelling with untested fellow citizens and that the further quarantine period in Japan would be financially devastating for them.

In contrast to the Diamond Princess, almost 2000 passengers and crew members onboard the MS Westerdam cruise liner were finally allowed to disembark on February 14 in Sihanoukville, Cambodia after being turned away by various other ports in Asia in fear of contracting the COVID-19. An American woman who travelled to Malaysia after disembarking has been tested positive by Malaysia health authorities, bringing the total count in Malaysia to 22.


By Rajyashyree Rajagopal

Reference
CNN: 1 | 2
Al-Jazeera
BBC