At the time of writing, there have been 17,459 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, the vast majority of which (17,276) remain within mainland China. Twenty cases have been recorded in Japan, 19 in Thailand, 18 in Singapore, 15 in Hong Kong, 15 in South Korea, 12 in Australia, 11 in the US, 10 in Germany and 10 in Taiwan; cases have also been confirmed in Macau, Malaysia, France, Vietnam, the UAE, Canada, Italy, Russia, the Philippines, India, the UK, Nepal, Cambodia, Spain, Finland, Sweden and Sri Lanka. a total of 362 deaths have been recorded, while 489 people are confirmed to have recovered from the virus. The man who died in the Philippines was a 44-year-old Chinese man from Wuhan who was apparently infected before arriving in the Philippines.
Hospital workers in Hong Kong have opted to strike, hoping to pressure authorities to completely close the border with mainland China, in order to reduce the risk of further spread. Cross-border ferry and rail services have already been closed, but health workers do not believe that this is enough; however, authorities say that further measures would contravene World Health Organization advice.
Other countries including Australia, the US and Singapore are currently denying entry to all foreign travellers who have recently visited China, while Israel and New Zealand are denying entry to foreigners travelling from mainland China, and Japan and South Korea are denying entry to those who have visited Hubei province.
“Travel restrictions can cause more harm than good,” Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, “by hindering info-sharing, medical supply chains and harming economies.”
In China, a new hospital built in a mere eight days specifically to deal with coronavirus patients has now started accepting people. But other countries are struggling – in Vietnam, for example, hospitals have reported dangerously low stocks of blood and platelets, as donors stay away from donation banks in their droves due to coronavirus fears. Hanoi’s National Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion requires 1,500 units of blood per day, but between 23 January and 1 February, it received only 226 units for the 10-day period. Hospitals in Hue, Da Nang, Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh have also reported shortages.
Elsewhere, FAI Air Ambulance, which has been closely monitoring the evolution of the coronavirus outbreak, has highlighted the most up-to-date and key factors concerning the virus:
- There is clear evidence now that human-to-human transmission is readily occurring.
- Infected persons in their incubation period of three to five days can transmit the virus to others, even in the absence of fever or without respiratory symptoms.
- Virus transmission does not require very close or intimate contact.
- The contagious nature of the virus is expected to change, depending on the rate of viral mutation, based on evidence from previous novel coronavirus outbreaks.
- Likewise, the severity of infection, and case fatality rates, will remain difficult to predict, and subject to change from what is currently being observed.
In response, the air ambulance operator has reaffirmed that, as before, it will still not consider transporting patients with confirmed 2019-nCoV infection.