Covid-19 Virus

Expert Q&A: Preparing for the COVID-19 Virus

Richard from South London asked I have COVID-19 virus symptoms and went to hospital to be tested, but I was turned away as I hadn’t been in contact with an infected person or been to an infected area. What should I do now?

Facts and Myths about COVID-19 (COR...
Facts and Myths about COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS)

We have clear criteria for testing everybody and we’re doing everything we can to make that easily available through different options such as testing in a hospital. Sometimes COVID-19 virus testing in community centres or special areas of the community and occasionally testing at home.

We have started doing drive-through COVID-19 virus testing as well, so it’s really about whether you need testing and then making testing available. You mentioned drive-through, try seeing the pictures of that actually happening in Seattle.

When you look at testing, it is fascinating the figures South Korea has tested about 3,500 people per million. The US the figure is 5 per million. Just how critical is testing? COVID-19 virus testing is very important and the amount of testing does vary between countries.

In the UK, we are increasing our COVID-19 virus testing capacity but again it’s important about who is tested and that may change over time. So, should the West look to the east as a model of how best to prepare? Monitoring the Asian response when the COVID-19 virus outbreak started in China last December, its Asian neighbours were the first to react.

Look at various measures taken by the governments in the region. In China, it’s a lockdown it took Beijing a few weeks to react and when they did the authorities took a harsh approach which affected nearly 60 million people. The COVID-19 outbreak brought back memories of SARS.

In Hong Kong, officials there were quick to respond by shutting down schools. Critics though wanted the government to do more and prevent the arrival of Chinese visitors and that’s exactly what the government in Singapore did. It was one of the first countries to shut its borders to China.

It’s also present place a highly sophisticated contact tracing procedure to track down people who’d been around patients who tested positive. That sounds manageable with a population of just over 5,500,000 compared to South Korea whose population is over 50,000,000. Seoul is mass testing anyone with COVID-19 symptoms but critics say its approach has overwhelmed its hospitals.

Lockdown, school closures, contact tracing, and aggressive testing – if you put them all together maybe that’s the perfect approach to containing COVID-19 but how difficult would it be to carry it out in the rest of the world?

Every country will have different solutions but the principals are going to be the same. Which is really about spreading. Limiting the spread of infections, slowing down the spread of infection and it’s going to involve a package of measures. Those that have been mentioned are important but they may be implemented at different times by different countries. According to what the risks are in those countries, at that time and also whether it’s proportionate to the risk.

Can you actually catch COVID-19 twice? We are still collecting evidence, this is a new disease but we do not think that once you’ve had the COVID-19 infection, that you are at an immediate risk of getting infected again. We think that the infection will give you some immunity. What’s unclear is how long that immunity will last for.

All of the countries in their response looking at particular vulnerable groups, in terms of the elderly one particular group and we know the statistics are much higher in that particular group, and that dynamic what is the best advice?

Say we want to help a neighbour, go round take food – is that help or is that potentially exposing them to be infected? Do we need to look out for older members of society? We know they are at increased risk but you need to do that properly and carefully. If you have symptoms of a respiratory illness, then you shouldn’t be going and visiting elderly people you should be trying to avoid that as a neighbour for example.

There are other ways that we can help our older members of society, without putting them at risk so making sure that they have food delivered for example is a good way and just keeping in touch with them if they are at home, to make sure that they’re feeling okay.

There are lots of different ways but close contact that is the thing to avoid absolutely. Another aspect of being prepared is having enough to actually live on at home and in the office we’ve seen stockpiling in pockets around the world with hand sanitisers top of people’s list.

Italy has seen a run on pasta which appears to have confirmed the notion that penne without ridges is the least popular. Switzerland has seen canned goods and baby food flying off the shelves panic buying there has been named hamster – after the cheap stuffing rodent and lots of examples of shoppers hoarding toilet paper with fights breaking out in supermarkets in Australia.

One newspaper even printed extra blank pages for readers in case of emergencies. In terms of necessity because of course government advices that there’s no need to do this is government advice but you mentioned it they’re being prepared it’s human nature if we think they’re going to be shortages if they go to be problems for us to get to the shops and get what we need.

You are going to stock up and you can see what exactly people are doing. It’s the you know non-perishable foods, it’s the toilet rolls, there’s also of course pictures of empty shelves where soap should be. As well it supportive that is human nature but on the other hand as you say governments are talking to supermarkets they’re talking to manufacturers.

I know of one manufacturer, for example, of disinfectants producing more of those lines. I mean it is 2020, they know what they’re doing. They have a very clear eye on what patterns are going on and frankly you know don’t panic too much. Only buy what you need when you look at those pictures of empty supermarket shelves, what people do before they bought all that soap?

They wash it and it is extraordinary because the advice is so clear. Just this morning, I drove past a chemist and I had to do a double-take. There was a queue that went right around the corner and up the hill. I’d never seen anything like that before, you hear reports of people going in and supply you know there is a delivery of ten bottles of hand sanitiser and they’re buying eight of them.

What are you going to do with those eight bottles? That creates further panic as well it is human nature but as I say supermarkets are incredibly sophisticated. They have forecasters out there. They know other gaps are going to be we have very agile manufacturers out there who can switch production so don’t panic too much.

Work on staying well, exercise daily and keep hydrated.

Paul Austin

Paul is a writer living in the Great Lakes Region. He dabbles in research of historical events, places, and people on his website at Michigan4You. When he isn't under a deadline, you can find him on the beach with a good book and a cold beer.

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