Coronavirus (COVID-19): The Health and Economic Implications for China and the Rest of the World
Written by Ahmed Manjang:
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is so far the most significant story of 2020 apart from the escalating tensions between the US and Iran, and could decimate the Chinese and the global economy as well.
December, 31st 2019, the Country Office of World Health Organization (WHO), China was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown aetiology detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. The Chinese authorities identified a new type of coronavirus, which was isolated on 7 January 2020. On 30 January 2020, WHO issued a Public Health Emergency of International Concern? As of today 21st February 2020, WHO reported 75,748 (548 new) confirmed cases worldwide affecting 26 countries with the epicentre in Wuhan City, part of mainland China with 74,675 (399 new) and outside China 1073 (149 new) confirmed cases.
The number of deaths reported so far amounts to 2121(115 new) in China and 8 (5 new) abroad. WHO asses the risk of the global pandemic as high and with reference to China as very high. At this stage, we do not fully understand how the 2019-nCoV spreads. This makes containment efforts difficult. WHO officials state clearly that at this stage one cannot predict the direction, duration, scope and scale of the epidemic. This creates an extra dose of uncertainty. Some experts expect the outbreak to last at least until May 2020.
The economic impact of the outbreak will depend on its duration and severity. The effect for the global economy will obviously depend as well on its geographic scope. If it is contained to a large extent to China, it will impact the country the hardest. If spread outside China continue at its current rate, the impact could be significantly more severe affecting, in particular, the ASEAN countries (Hong Kong, Singapore, etc.) or Japan. The disturbances within global value and logistics chains could accumulate if the containment measures will have to be prolonged. The impact could be the largest on economies most linked to or dependent on China.
During previous outbreaks due to other coronavirus (Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), human-to-human transmission occurred through droplets, contact and fomites, suggesting that the transmission mode of the 2019-nCoV can be similar.
According to WHO recommendations and advice for the public. The basic principles to reduce the general risk of transmission of acute respiratory infections include the following:
I. Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.
II. Frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.
III. Avoiding unprotected contact with farm or wild animals.
IV. People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands).
V. Within health care facilities, enhance standard infection prevention and control practices in hospitals, especially in emergency departments.
WHO does not recommend any specific health measures for travellers? In case of symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness either during or after travel, travellers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider.
According to the president of the Gambia’s Supreme Islamic Council president, his organisation were call up by the Gambia government to provide them with twenty imams who will be trained to sensitised the general public about the control measures of COVID-19. In the opinion, I think using the imams for this delegate task is farfetched and ill-advise. I think the Gambia’s public health department should take the lead in this since they have the necessary skills to implement above WHO’s recommendations.
Ahmed Manjang, Senior Medical Technologist/Research Coordinator, King Fahad Medical City, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.