Updated as of March 30 at 9am
There has been an explosion of information, comments and opinions on COVID-19 on the internet and 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 Healthy Matters remains to bring you the best possible information, so you can make the best choices for you and your family. Subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed!
COVID-19 has killed over 33,000 people (30,000 yesterday) and infected 720,000 (660,000 yesterday) in over 170 countries.
88% of all cases are now outside China as new cases keep coming from the rest of the world.
As of March 30 at 9am (HK), COVID-19 has caused 33,958 deaths and 721,584 confirmed cases (82,122 in China).
149,122 people have recovered so far.
Latest COVID-19 update (as of March 30)
– Asia: South Korea: 9,583, Malaysia: 2,470, Japan: 1,866, Pakistan: 1,597, Philippines: 1,418, Thailand: 1,388, Indonesia: 1,285, India: 1,024, Singapore: 844, Diamond Princess ship: 712, Hong Kong: 641, Taiwan: 298, Vietnam: 194, Brunei: 126, Afghanistan: 120, Sri Lanka: 117, Cambodia: 103, Macau: 37.
– Europe: Italy: 97,689, Spain: 80,110, Germany: 62,095, France: 40,723, UK: 19,784, Switzerland: 14,829, Netherlands: 10,930, Belgium: 10,836, Turkey: 9,217, Austria: 8,217, Portugal: 5,962, Norway: 4,284, Sweden: 3,700, Czech Republic: 2,817, Ireland: 2,615, Denmark: 2,564, Luxembourg: 1,950, Poland: 1,862, Romania: 1,292, Finland: 1,240, Greece: 1,156, Russia: 1,036, Iceland: 1,020, Slovenia: 730, Croatia: 713, Estonia: 679, Serbia: 457, Lithuania: 299, Armenia: 265, Hungary: 261, Latvia: 244, Bulgaria: 242, Andorra: 224, Slovakia: 226, Macedonia: 201, Ukraine: 196, Albania: 174, Malta: 134, Belarus: 86, Georgia: 79, Liechtenstein: 56, Monaco: 33.
– North America: USA: 142,106, Canada: 6,320, Mexico: 848.
– South America: Brazil: 4,256, Chile: 2,139, Ecuador: 1,924, Panama: 989, Dominican Republic: 859, Argentina: 820, Colombia: 702, Peru: 635, Costa Rica: 314, Venezuela: 119, Bolivia: 81, Paraguay: 59.
– Australia: 3,984, New Zealand: 514.
– Africa: South Africa: 1,280, Egypt: 609, Algeria: 511, Morocco: 479, Tunisia: 312, Burkina Faso: 222, Senegal: 142, Nigeria: 111, DRC: 100, Ethiopia: 21.
– Middle East: Iran: 38,309, Israel: 4,247, Saudi Arabia: 1,299, Qatar: 634, UAE: 570, Iraq: 547, Bahrain: 466, Lebanon: 438, Jordan: 259, Kuwait: 255, Azerbaijan: 209, Oman: 167.
Latest global news
– The United States now have the most cases in the world, with over 140,000 cases, overtaking China.
– Tokyo has delayed the Olympics until 2021.
– The United Kingdom has been placed on lockdown for 3 weeks in order to slow the spread of the virus. Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister, was infected with COVID-19.
– Italy has 30% of global COVID-19 deaths: 10,000 of the 33,000 deaths globally.
– Hong Kong is hit with second wave of cases, most with a recent history of travel.
– Australia and New Zealand have banned non-residents from entry, in an unprecedented move.
– In the US, gatherings of more than 10 people are discouraged, several states are closing schools and many restaurants across the country can’t have dine-in guests. Even some public beaches in Florida are closing.
– Canada has barred entry to travellers who are not citizens, permanent residents or US citizens. Only exceptions are diplomats, crew and immediate family members of citizens.
– The WHO has declared COVID-19 a pandemic. According to its Director General, “we have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled at the same time”.
– Hong Kong records its fourth death.
– In an unprecedented move, Israel has advised all its citizens to avoid any travel abroad.
Reminder: what is a 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 did COVID-19 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 Market was shut on January 1.
On 5 January 2020, 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 11 January 2020, China announced a 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 new countries, and authorities are intensifying their efforts to curb it.
COVID-19: differences with SARS and MERS
The three viruses share similarities, namely the fact that damage to the lungs can make all three viruses deadly. However, at this stage the mortality rate of coronavirus is lower than that of the outbreak of SARS in 2003, according to Peter Piot, professor of global health and director at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
For reference, in 2003 and 2004, SARS killed nearly 10 percent of the 8,096 people in 29 countries who fell ill. A total of 774 people died, according to the WHO.
MERS was even more deadly, killing about 30 percent of people who got infected. Indeed, 858 people died out of 2,494 cases, according to the WHO.The spread of the coronavirus seems “more infectious” but less severe than the SARS so far, according to health experts.
Based on numbers to date, the new coronavirus has killed about 2 percent of those that have been infected. Numbers are moving quickly though as cases get diagnosed.
Actually, most of the people who have died as a result of the coronavirus had underlying health conditions, like hypertension, diabetes or cardiovascular disease. These conditions had weakened their immune systems, according to World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus.
As a result of the seriousness of the situation, the WHO has declared the new coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency on January 30.
A key difference so far is that in the case of MERS, some “superspreaders” passed the virus onto many others. Most famously, one businessman brought the virus to South Korea in 2015 and infected 186 people with MERS. Another superspreader who caught MERS from that man passed MERS to 82 people in just two days while being treated in an emergency room.
Lastly, an analysis of the illness in the first 41 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 from Wuhan suggests that the virus acts somewhat similarly to SARS and MERS. Like SARS and MERS, the new coronavirus causes pneumonia. But unlike the SARS and MERS viruses, the new coronavirus rarely produces runny noses or intestinal symptoms, as reported on January 24 in the scientific journal, The Lancet. Most of the people affected in that first group were healthy, with fewer than a third actually having chronic medical conditions that could make them more vulnerable to infection.
What are the latest measures in Hong Kong?
– In an effort to enforce social distancing more strictly, since Saturday March 28 evening, restaurants are not allowed to have tables of over 4 people, with each table at 1.5 metres distance. Many facilities like cinemas, fitness centres and others have been shut.
– For two weeks starting Tuesday March 24, non-residents are not allowed into Hong Kong.
– IB exams in Hong Kong and around the world have been cancelled.
– Government employees are back to working from home and all schools are to remain closed “until further notice”.
– 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.
– 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.
– 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.
Recommendations everyone should follow to stay safe
Below are some recommendations to note:
– Hand hygiene is one of the most important measures to reduce the spread of diseases. Always perform hand hygiene, especially before touching the mouth, nose or eyes; after touching public installations; or when hands are contaminated by respiratory secretions.
– Wash hands with liquid soap and water, and rub for at least 20 seconds. Rinse with water and dry them with a disposable paper towel.
– If hand washing facilities are not available, rub hands with 70 to 80% alcohol-based handrub. Use sufficient amount of handrub to rub our palms, back of hands, finger webs, back of fingers, thumbs, finger tips, and then wrists. Rub for at least 20 seconds until your hands are dry. Let the alcohol dry on your hands, do not wipe it off with paper towel. It is wise to check the expiry date of the handrub before using it.
– It is important to wear a mask properly before wearing and after removing a mask. Wear a surgical mask when taking public transport or staying in crowded places.
– Cover your mouth and nose with tissue paper when sneezing or coughing and dispose of soiled tissues into a lidded rubbish bin, then wash hands thoroughly.
– Maintain drainage pipes properly and pour about half a litre of water into drain outlets regularly.
– As far as possible, avoid crowded places and minimise social contact.
– If you develop respiratory symptoms or a fever, put on a surgical mask and seek medical advice soonest possible.
Precautions to take when travelling outside Hong Kong
– Do not travel to countries or areas where community transmission of COVID-19 is occurring. Perform personal and hand hygiene at all times.
– Avoid close contact with persons with fever or respiratory symptoms in countries or areas with possible community transmission of novel coronavirus infection.
– Do not visit wet markets, live poultry markets or farms.
– Refrain from touching animals, poultry, birds or their droppings.
– Do not consume game meat and do not patronise food premises where game meat is served.
– Avoiding consuming raw or undercooked animal products which may be contaminated by animal secretions or excretions.
– If you develop respiratory symptoms or a fever, wear a surgical mask and seek medical advice at once as soon as possible.
– Upon returning to Hong Kong, consult a doctor promptly and inform the doctor of your recent travel history and other relevant details to facilitate effective diagnosis and treatment.
What are the symptoms? When to seek medical help?
In case of a COVID-19 infection, you are particularly at risk if you have the below symptoms :
– any respiratory symptoms,
– 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.
Where to seek help in Hong Kong?
According to Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection’s (CHP), all suspected cases should be reported to the CHP and patients should be transferred to designated public hospitals for further screening, clinical management, and isolation if need be.
In the current context, it is important to note that while all private hospitals continue operating, they have put in place special measures to identify potential patients who may have contracted the new virus. Private clinics will systematically screen patients (China travel history) and take their temperature. Some clinics may even refuse seeing a patient with a high fever. If you do not pass the screening test and are considered high-risk, you will be sent to a public hospital.
If you need a doctor or hospital in Hong Kong during the new coronavirus outbreak, note that new guidelines are in place. Learn where to go and the costs involved here.
Useful resources about COVID-19