Jane Chiodini, Dean of our Faculty of Travel Medicine, has written for our blog on the latest news and updates on coronavirus/COVID-19.
In just two weeks since last writing, most of the world has felt the enormous impact of Coronavirus disease 2019.
With the World Health Organisation declaring that COVID-19 is now a pandemic on 11th March 2020, the total global case numbers from the WHO (situation report 52 on 12.03.20) were 125 048 confirmed cases with a total of 4613 deaths in 117 countries. Cases in China have reduced significantly but there are big outbreaks in South Korea and Iran. In Europe, Italy has seen over 12462 cases and 827 deaths when just two weeks ago it had 400 cases confirmed and 12 deaths. These dramatic increases show just how devastatingly fast COVID-19 is spreading and France and Spain are now reporting increases too.
Countries are managing the situation in their own ways from the cancellation of mass gatherings, restrictions on travel into and within countries, closure of shops and theatres, major sporting events and much more. The social and psychological impact of the situation is immeasurable and one senses that life going forward will possibly never be the same again. It will take a long time for the world economic crisis to recover, people are having to learn to work from home and maybe this will become more of the norm in the future. Many businesses will cease trading and we already know some industries such as the airlines and cruise ship companies have been severely hit – it will take a long time for confidence to build their businesses back up.
Here in the UK we are moving from the containment phase to the delay phase but daily numbers are increasing at a fast pace and as of 12.03.20 we had 590 cases with 8 deaths, but it’s thought we could actually have up to 10,000 cases undiagnosed in the community. Restrictions are starting to begin, with more to come when the time is right. As the public become more aware of the gravity of the situation, panic buying has been occurring in the supermarkets, the media are reporting constantly, transport such as the tube in London seems appreciably quieter than normal. The briefing from the Prime Minister yesterday told us we are 4 weeks behind the situation as it stands in Italy and we’re facing the largest public health crisis for a generation.
Within the medical community there has been significant work going on behind the scenes in preparations not only for the care of patients, but management of the staff who will be needed. Just yesterday ‘Guidance regarding Medical Education and Training’ was published by the four Statutory Education Bodies covering the UK (https://news.rcpsg.ac.uk/workforce/supporting-the-covid-19-response-guidance-regarding-medical-education-and-training/) and the trainee committees of the three Royal Colleges of Physicians have come together to jointly published a statement to provide guidance to trainee doctors (https://news.rcpsg.ac.uk/workforce/covid-19-guidance-to-trainee-doctors/) Here, within the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, plans to manage through the crisis are ongoing.
The ‘infodemic’ of COVID-19 isn’t helping the situation at times, with mis-information being spread on all forms of social media. Here work has been undertaken with many of these companies so that the NHS Health messages appear in key placings to help share the correct messaging.
On a positive note, the scientific community is working hard and fast, publishing their data as more is known and sharing it by open access to help in the battle; progress is being made in settings such as South Korea to produce increasingly more rapid diagnostic tests and technology is allowing the development of faster tracking tools to appreciate the impact of the global pandemic – an example is one from the Johns Hopkins University found here.
Meanwhile in these unprecedented times, handwashing remains the most important health message that can be taken by everyone, along with good respiratory hygiene. I’ve developed a rapid access selection of resources for day to day working on my website at https://www.janechiodini.co.uk/help/covid-19/