The Coronavirus strain currently identified as COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic last March 11, 2020, by the World Health Organization (WHO). As per the WHO, the level of spread of the disease within such a short amount of time was the reason behind the classification.
The organization also raised the alarm for all countries, as well as the people of the world, to help stop this disease from spreading further while still remaining calm in the face of this urgent situation.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, which first appeared in Wuhan, China in November or December of 2019. The virus itself belongs to a strain of coronaviruses that have the ability to be transmitted from animals to humans.
Symptoms caused by the disease, as well as its severity, will vary from person to person, but will often cause flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, cold, sore throat, and fatigue. In some cases, an infected person may also experience headaches, chills, joint and muscle pain, and nausea.
Severe cases of COVID-19 may eventually lead to pneumonia and multiple organ failure which, in turn, may lead to death. Others, however, are asymptomatic and will not show symptoms related to the infection but are still capable of spreading the disease.
The average incubation period of the disease, from infection to the emergence of symptoms, is anywhere between two to fourteen days, according to the WHO. Recovery time is somewhere between two to six weeks, depending on the severity.
The virus is transmitted through droplets from an infected person’s coughs or sneezes, although traces of the virus can also be found in the fecal matter of the infected.
Previous Coronavirus Outbreaks
The current COVID-19 pandemic is similar to the previous two coronavirus outbreaks, albeit with different types of infection rates and severity. The first of these viruses, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS-CoV, was first reported in 2002 and spread to 17 countries.
Originating in Beijing, China, SARS was said to have been transmitted from horseshoe bats to humans and had a fatality rate of 9.6%. Reports have stated that 8,096 people were infected with SARS, and 774 deaths were recorded.
On the other hand, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, medically known as MERS-CoV, originated in Saudi Arabia and first appeared in 2012. MERS has a high death rate of 34.4% and infected 2,494 people across 21 countries. MERS killed 858 people during the outbreak, which was presumably caused by transmission from dromedary camels to humans.
Currently, there have been 182,742 confirmed cases of people contracting COVID-19. Of these infections, 7174 have died. About 80,000 of these cases have since recovered and have either been released or quarantined for safety and research purposes. COVID-19 has currently affected 162 countries across 6 different continents.
Currently, China has a total number of cases of infection of 80,881, as well as deaths of 3,226. These figures account for almost half of the recorded cases and deaths in the entire world. This is followed by Italy (27,980 cases with 2,158 deaths), Iran (14,991 cases with 853 deaths), Spain (9,942 cases with 342 deaths), and South Korea (8,320 cases with 81 deaths).
Italy currently has the worst concentration of infected people based on population with 462.8 cases per 1 million citizens.
Research on the transmission rate of COVID-19 is immature as of the moment but is believed to be between 1.5 and 3.5. Fatality rates, based on current figures, are around 3% to 4%, despite an initial approximation of 2% by the WHO. However, survivability is dependent on several factors such as age, lifestyle, access to treatment, and the existence of pre-existing medical conditions.
Due to the current unavailability of data, it is impossible to provide accurate information on the demographics of those who were infected. However, estimates point to median age of between 40 to 60 years of age, and to an almost equal distribution between male and female infected.
Worldwide Actions Against COVID-19
Organizations such as WHO and UNICEF have released guidelines on how to prevent the further spread of infection. These guidelines were set for the purpose of quick diagnosis, isolation, and treatment of the infected, as well as to minimize the risk of human-to-human transmission.
Countries around the world have followed suit at varying levels, ranging from the closing of schools and non-critical businesses to restricting travel and implementing curfews.
The province of Hubei in China, from which the first infected were first found, implemented the first lockdown procedures wherein all 15 cities within the province were essentially quarantined beginning January 23, 2020. The lockdown affected over 50 million residents in the area, with all non-essential companies ordered to shut down.
Travel in and out of the area was restricted, and residents were only allowed to go out once every two days with special exceptions. After significant drops in infections, lockdowns in select cities have since been lifted.
Worldwide, other countries have followed suit. Countries such as Italy, France, and Spain have ordered lockdowns in order to stop the spread of the virus by banning non-essential travel, closing down schools, and preventing mass gatherings such as mass and sporting events. In the United States, travel in and out of the country, especially from locations with COVID-19 confirmed cases, has been restricted.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) also announced that it has suspended its current season due to a number of players having contracted the disease.
In other countries, community quarantines have also been in effect, along with contact tracing for those who have been in close proximity to the infected. Schools have been suspended, and only essential businesses are allowed to operate.
Employers are recommended to have their workforce work from home, and purchases are closely monitored in order to prevent shortages and hoarding. Stricter security measures are also being implemented, not only along national boundaries but also within high-risk areas such as malls or residential buildings.
Most medical experts, however, recommend simple social distancing and basic hygiene practices in order to minimize the risk of infection. The wearing of protective equipment such as face masks as well as regular washing of hands is highly advised. It is also recommended to stay away from high-population areas as well as those suspected to be carrying the disease.
Sanitation of immediate surroundings is equally important in order to prevent this pandemic from getting worse.
Quebec Now Has 39 Coronaviruses Cases, Orders Further Closures
Disturbing news has hit the Canadian province of Quebec, as the number of cases of those infected with the coronavirus-related disease COVID-19 has now reached 39, one of which was a minor, and four more than the 35 confirmed cases that were reported earlier. As such, the government has ordered stricter measures and guidelines to help prevent the further spread of the highly infectious disease.
This announcement came a day after the province declared a health emergency amid the rapid rise of COVID-19 infections in the area. Since Saturday afternoon, the number of infected rose by 11, with 1,186 more persons under investigation. On the other hand, 1,890 previously suspected cases have yielded negative results.
Premier of Quebec François Legault once again asked that non-essential establishments and businesses cease operations until further notice. These include areas with high traffic such as cinemas, bars, skis, as well as gyms.
This is on top of the government’s previous orders last Friday that all schools and universities are to be closed for two weeks while the coronavirus threat was still being assessed. This directive is still being followed, with no one being allowed to enter school premises even to pick up personal items, according to Education Minister Jean-François Roberge.
Restaurants are also advised to limit their capacity to fifty percent for the same purposes. In relation to this, popular restaurants such as Joe Beef and Le Vin Papillon have chosen to close for the foreseeable future instead. Montreal-based performance act Cirque du Soleil have similarly already canceled or postponed their performances as well as their resident shows in Las Vegas.
Several ski resorts have also followed suit once the recommendation for closures came down. Mont Tremblant, as well as several other ski resorts, have taken measures to suspend their operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The company behind Mont Tremblant, Alterra Mountain Company, has already promised refunds for bookings canceled due to the closure.
Churches, on the other hand, have canceled mass in churches until further notice. This is in compliance with the government’s order to avoid large group gatherings as part of the social distancing initiative. Several churches have already implemented a webcast of mass for those who are not able to physically attend church.
Public health officials also advised Quebecers to practice social distancing. This means that citizens should try to keep a distance from each other in order to minimize the risk of disease transmission.
Travel within the city, Legault said, should thus be limited for valid purposes such as purchasing food in the market, buying medicines, or taking care of the elderly. These, however, should still be limited for safety reasons. The recommended distance is one meter away, the Premier said.
As for travel restrictions, air traffic in and out of Canada will be much stricter in the coming days. This, along with other countries imposing travel bans as well, will make travel by plane difficult. While Canadians will still be welcomed into the country, complications may soon arise due to canceled flights as well as ongoing restrictions.
As for railway transit, services will be reduced by half within the week. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, however, has been put on record to state that the U.S./Canada border will not be closed at this time.
Trudeau also encouraged private businesses, especially those in non-essential industries to work remotely if possible. For those who would lose money over not being able to work, the Prime Minister has promised financial aid.
The Depot Community Food Centre will also be providing emergency food rations to the needy. DCFC Executive Director Daniel Rotman said that the organization will be providing six weeks’ worth of food supplies to households starting March 20. However, volunteers will not currently be accommodated.
Healthcare workers are asked to help during the crisis. Those with children will have access to childcare centers where their kids can get taken care of. Education Minister Roberge said that they intend to open 400 such sites to cater to the health workers who will be deployed around the area. Health officials will also be meeting with Premier Legault to discuss further requirements and succeeding plans to avert further outbreaks.
Horacio Arruda, Public Health Director of Quebec, also requested cooperation and understanding during the quarantine proceedings. Arruda said that caution and action are necessary and that they are no need for the public to panic despite the rising cases of COVID-19 in the province.