Novel Coronavirus: Your Daily Report

Updated as of February 21 at 9am

 

There is currently an explosion of information, comments and opinions on the new coronavirus on the internet and on social media. We believe that on serious topics in general, and on public health matters in particular, it is essential that you rely on facts and seek credible, expert information. Our mission at AD MediLink remains to bring you the best possible information and advice, so you can make the best choices for you and your family. 

 


 

The new coronavirus continues to spread. Chinese authorities have again reported a sharp increase both in the death toll and number of new cases (link in Chinese, tally from local and national health commissions).

As of February 21 at 9am (HK time), novel coronavirus has caused 2,244 deaths and 76,184 confirmed cases (of which 74,987 in China). This is now almost three times the number of deaths during SARS, which caused 813 deaths in 2002/2003.

Important: as of February 13, China changed the way coronavirus cases and deaths are reported, and on that day announced a whopping 254 new deaths and over 15,000 new cases.

So far, there have been 11 deaths outside of China: in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, France and Iran.

17,780 people have recovered so far.

 

 

What is novel (new) coronavirus?

A coronavirus is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat. This large family of viruses causes several well-known mild to moderate respiratory illnesses such as the common cold, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Coronaviruses spread through coughing, sneezing, or touching an infected person.

While most coronaviruses are not dangerous and most people actually get a coronavirus infection at least once in their life, most likely as a young child, with mild symptoms. In some rarer instances, people have been infected by a more serious type of coronavirus, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Indeed, SARS was transmitted from civet cats to humans, and MERS from dromedary camels to humans, as reminded by World Health Organization (WHO).

A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has NOT been previously identified in humans. The new coronavirus was first named “2019-nCoV”. On February 11, WHO renamed it COVID-19.

 

Where does novel coronavirus come from?

On 31 December 2019, China alerted the WHO of several cases of pneumonia in the city of Wuhan. Wuhan has 11 million people and is located in the central Hubei Province, which itself has 60 million people. Several of those infected by the virus worked at or visited a a large seafood and animal market, suggesting a possible zoonotic origin to the outbreak. Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market was shut down on January 1.

On January 5, Chinese officials and experts ruled out the possibility that this was a recurrence of the SARS. Tests showed that cases were due to a new coronavirus, which was named “2019-nCoV.” (it has since been renamed COVID-19 by WHO).

On January 11, China announced its first death: a 61-year-old man who had visited the seafood market. He was admitted to hospital and died on the evening of January 9 when his heart failed.

Since then, the new coronavirus has spread to several countries, and authorities are intensifying efforts to curb it.

 

If you are looking for a doctor or hospital in Hong Kong, note that new guidelines are in place. Learn all about it here.

 

What are the symptoms?

For confirmed COVID-19 infections, reported illnesses have ranged from people with mild symptoms to to people being severely ill and dying. As reported by CDC, symptoms can include:

– Fever

– Cough

– Difficulty breathing

– Pneumonia as shown on chest X-ray

People of older age and/or with existing health issues are deemed at higher risk of developing severe symptoms from the new coronavirus.

 

How many people are infected? (as of Feb. 21)

Total number of cases (worldwide): 76,184.

Number of cases in Mainland China: 74,987 of which 62,031 cases in Hubei Province.

Number of deaths: 2,244 (of which 99% i.e. 2,233 in mainland China)

Number of people who have recovered: 17,780.

Number of cases outside Mainland China (source: CHP and SCMP) :

Asia: Hong Kong: 69, Singapore: 85, Japan: 723 (of which 542 confirmed on a cruise ship)Macau: 10, Thailand: 35, South Korea: 104, Taiwan: 24, Malaysia: 22, Vietnam: 16, India: 3, Philippines: 3, Cambodia: 1, Nepal: 1, Sri Lanka: 1.

Europe: France: 12, Germany: 16, UK: 9, Italy: 3, Finland: 1, Sweden: 1, Russia: 2, Spain: 1, Belgium: 1.

North America: USA: 15, Canada: 8.

Australia: 15.

– Africa: Egypt: 1.

Middle East: UAE: 9; Iran: 5.

 

Latest measures taken in Hong Kong

Schools closed until March 16 at the earliest: The Education Bureau announced on February 13 that all schools will remain closed until March 16 at the earliest (extended from March 2 as previously announced).

 

– 14-day mandatory quarantine on all people entering Hong Kong from the Mainland: Carrie Lam announced this new measure on February 5. It is expected that this will further reduce the flow of people between Hong Kong and the Mainland, reducing the risk of transmission and spread of novel coronavirus.

 

Closing of more border points with China: Carrie Lam announced on February 3 that from 00:00 hrs on February 4 only two land boundary control points will handle passengers: Shenzhen Bay and HK-Zuhai-Macao Bridge. The Lo Wu, Lok Ma Chau and Macao Ferry Terminal control points will close. Hong Kong International Airport will operate as normal. Kai Tak Cruise Terminal will operate as normal. This means that out of 14 boundary control points between HK and mainland China, 10 will be closed and only 4 will remain open for now.

 

– New measures to enhance new coronavirus prevention in Hong Kong: the government announced new measures on January 31, including extending class suspension for all schools, kindergartens, child care centres and special schools until March 2nd at least (instead of was February 17), extension of the special work arrangement for civil servants and special measures for HK residents returning from mainland China (quarantine and need to wear a mask).

Drastic new measures to limit cross-border travel: in a new press conference on January 28, Carrie Lam announced  new measures to drastically reduce cross-border travel including the shutdown of the two railways, cross-border ferries and denying entry to individual mainland travellers. Flights from and to the mainland will also be cut by half and cross-border tour buses will be reduced. Beijing has also agreed to stop issuing individual travel visas for mainlanders. These measures will be effective at midnight on Thursday 30 January.

 

Civil servants working from home: most of Hong Kong’s 176,000 civil servants have been asked to work from home for the rest of the week (from January 29 until February 2) to limit the spreading of the novel coronavirus. This measure will not apply to civil servants who provide urgent and necessary public services. This was announced on January 28 and the full release is here.

 

Private sector staff working from home: the Government has asked employers on January 28 to make flexible work arrangement for employees, in order to reduce the risk of the spread of novel coronavirus.  Except for staff providing emergency services, employers should consider letting staff work from home as they are due to return from Lunar New Year. Details are here. It was reported by SCMP that several international companies including Baker Mckenzie and Linklaters (law firms), EY, Deloitte, PWC and KPMG (accounting) and financial firms like Bloomberg and T Row Price among others have asked staff to temporarily work from home. Some departments of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange also allowed their staff to work from home until further notice.

 

– Sports and cultural facilities closed: Hong Kong’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department has announced the shutting down of all sports centres, public swimming pools, museums, and libraries from Tuesday January 28 until further notice. The full press release is here.

 

Ban of residents of Hubei and anyone who visited Hubei in the last 14 days: except for people from Hong Kong, the government decided on Sunday 26 January to roll out new measures, effective immediately, in order to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. Similarly, Macau, further beefed up its measures against the outbreak, declaring that about 1,100 Hubei visitors needed to return to the mainland or be placed in isolation.

 

New package of measures as part of the activation of Emergency Response Level: on January 25, Carrie Lam announced a series of measures to tackle the disease. These include the creation of new advisory groups, suspending all flights and high-speed train to and from Wuhan, expanding the arrangements of health declarations by in-coming travellers from the Mainland  to all boundary control points, suspending all Mainland exchanges, visits, cultural and sports activities organised by the HK Government, and canceling of large-scale events such as the upcoming Hong Kong Marathon on February 9.

 

 

Latest global news about COVID-19

– 2,244 people have so far died from the new coronavirus, 99% are in mainland China.

– China now has almost 75,000 cases (up from 7,000 on January 28).

– A second person died in Hong Kong on February 19 after being infected by COVID-19: a 70-year old man with health issues (diabetes and kidney problems).

Iran has reported its first two cases (and deaths): two elderly Iranian citizens.

– South Korea reported its first death on February 20.

– The first case was reported in Africa (in Egypt).

Coronavirus will likely become a pandemic, according to ex-FDA commissioner.

– The World Health Organization has declared the new coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency.

– Starbucks has closed about 2,000 stores in China, i.e. half of its 4,392 stores in the country.

– Europe’s biggest bank, HSBC, has banned all staff travel to Hong Kong for two weeks and mainland China until further notice, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. HSBC has also asked staff who recently visited China to undergo a self-imposed 14-day quarantine (the virus has an incubation period of up to 14 days).

– US rival Goldman Sachs Group Inc has imposed similar measures, as well as Facebook according to Reuters.

– Airlines including Air Canada, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and United said they were canceling some flights to China as demand fell sharply and global companies told their employees not to travel to China.

– China’s Health Commission says that the main transmission is through “respiratory droplets” (coughing) and then touch;

– Incubation is generally 3-7 days, maximum 14 days, the commission says;

– The US has updated its travel advice to the highest level, meaning people should avoid all non-essential travel to China;

 

Recommendations to follow to stay safe

The Center for Health Protection in Hong Kong as well as the WHO and the CDC in the US have published advice for the general public. These are generally consistent with health recommendations to contain common viruses, such as influenza.

Recommendations include hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices:

– Frequently clean your hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;

– Wash hands with liquid soap, water and rub for at least 20 seconds. Dry with a disposable paper towel.

– If water and soap is not available, use 70 to 80% alcohol-based hand-rub.

– Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose;

– When coughing and sneezing cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue immediately and wash hands;

– Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;

– If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider;

– Avoid visiting wet markets, live poultry markets or farms;

– Avoid touching animals (including game), poultry / birds or their droppings;

– When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;

– Avoid the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods.

 

When to seek medical help?

You must wear a surgical mask and seek medical advice immediately if you:

– have any respiratory symptoms,

– have fever and especially

– if you have been travelling.

 

Even if you are unsure about whether you are sick and what it may be, you must consult a doctor. In the current context and while you should avoid unnecessary anxiety, it’s best to be safe!

 

 

Looking for health insurance? For expert advicecontact AD MediLink now at hello@admedilink.hk or +852 2606 2668 to receive a free quote. An advisor uniquely trained on the Hong Kong healthcare system will be in touch to answer all your questions about health insurance and healthcare.

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This article was independently written by AD MediLink and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.