COVID-19 Handbook Overview
THE WORLD HAS NEVER BEFORE EXPERIENCED a pandemic developing on an epic scale such as that unleashed by a new type of virus, which is more technically known as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and causes the coronavirus disease called COVID-19. The disease has spread worldwide at an alarming rate, infecting over 200,000 people across 181 countries and spreading rapidly with more infections occurring outside of China.
First reported by Chinese hospitals in early December 2019 in Hubei province, China, the disease quickly spread and within days had infected hundreds of people. In its early stages, up to 140 cases of infection were reported daily. Soon, thousands more were infected, which prompted government authorities to lock down Hubei’s capital and transportation hub Wuhan as well as other surrounding cities on 23 January.
The Chinese lockdown on the eve of the most significant holiday, the Chinese New Year celebration, resulted in a slowdown of the exponential spread of the ailment within China. A study published by the prestigious journal The Lancet revealed that the median daily reproduction number in Wuhan declined from a factor of 2.35 before lockdown to 1.05 a week after. It also found out that if the infection had spread outside Wuhan proper, there was more than a 50% chance that the infection would take off within that population if at least four independently introduced cases had been confirmed within that locality.
Chinese public health measures such as case management, tracking of individual infections, contact tracing, and quarantining were immediately undertaken, while social distancing measures—characterized in the Western press as draconian—such as lockdowns and the banning of public gatherings and transportation, came at a great socioeconomic sacrifice on the part of the population and many public and civic institutions.
The enormous measures taken by the Chinese came too late, as travelers from China had brought the disease across many countries through international flights worldwide. Within weeks, the virus had been detected in different countries including Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal, the United States, Canada and France. A study of Chinese infections compared with mobility and sociotemporal data of 2.97 billion trips in 375 cities (provided through Chinese tech giants Tencent and Baidu) during the period of January 10 and February 8 posited that 86% of all infections in that period were due to undocumented contagion prior to the 23 January travel restrictions. Although the transmission rate of undocumented infections was only 55% as compared to the higher transmission rate of documented infections that ranged between 46% and up to 62%, “yet due to their greater numbers, undocumented infections were the infection source of 79% of undocumented cases.”
An important conclusion of this study was that the high proportion of the total infection was mediated through this undocumented contagion, probably because many of the disease carriers “were likely not symptomatic,” thus facilitating its rapid spread throughout China. This indicated the need for a “radical increase in the identification and isolation of currently undocumented infections.” It also predicted that due to its rapid spread globally, the virus will eventually become endemic in human populations.
By the middle of March 2020, with over 60,000 cases of infection in Europe alone and thousands more all over the world—despite the advances in medicine and health systems in the 21st century, the COVID-19 outbreak was belatedly declared by the WHO as a truly global pandemic, an alert that by this time had become symbolic.
This final declaration by the WHO sounded the alarm loud and clear for all countries to take action and unite in the fight to find the best solution to what seems to be the greatest challenge to public heath ahead. Vital to achieving promising results are the understanding and personal actions of all concerned. This means imposing means for early detection, protection, and treatment.
Of the Philippines’ first documented incidences of COVID-19, one of three coronavirus-infected Chinese patients in February died of complications while the other two fully recovered. This death was the first reported outside mainland China.
Probably due to the early travel restrictions on flights from China, the Philippines went weeks without recording new infections until 5 March. The number went up to over 60 by 12 March. Local transmission of the disease also increased in number and by 16 March, the total number of infected ballooned to 187, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to then place the entire country under a state of calamity. This declaration is contained in Proclamation 929, which also put Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine that took effect at 12 a.m. of 17 March 2020.
The president’s declaration stated that “All government agencies and LGUs are directed to render full assistance, cooperate with each other, and mobilize necessary resources to undertake critical, urgent and appropriate disaster response aid and measures in a timely manner to curtail and eliminate the threat of Covid-19.”
As of 4 April 2020, the Philippines confirmed, 3,094 infections with a total of 144 fatalities and 57 recoveries. It has been noted that a higher percentage of COVID-19 fatalities affected males over 60.
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- “Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases,” Center for Systems Science, John Hopkins University and Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, 5 April 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html.
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- Adam J. Kucharski, Timothy W. Russell, Charlie Diamond, Yang Liu, John Edmunds, Sebastian Funk, and Rosalind M. Eggo, “Early dynamics of transmission and control of COVID-19: a mathematical modelling study,” The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 11 March 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30144-4/fulltext.
- “WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the technical briefing on 2019 novel coronavirus.”
- Ruiyun Li, Sen Pei, Bin Chen, Yimeng Song, Tao Zhang, Wan Yang, and Jeffrey Shaman, “Substantial undocumented infection facilitates the rapid dissemination of novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2),” Science, 16 March 2020, accessed 5 April 2020, https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2020/03/13/science.abb3221.full.
- “Situational report on the coronavirus disease,” Philippine Department of Health,” 14 February 2020, accessed 18 March 2020, https://www.doh.gov.ph/sites/default/files/health-update/covid-19-PhilSituationalReport-02142020.jpg.
- Julia Mari Ornedo, “Philippines’ COVID-19 cases: Where, how and how old,” GMA News Online, 12 March 2020, accessed 18 March 2020, https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/729432/philippinescovid-19-cases-where-how-and-how-old/story/
- “Philippines under state of calamity,” YahooNews, 17 March 2020, accessed 18 March 2020, https://ph.news.yahoo.com/philippines-under-state-calamity-103900931.html.
- “Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases,” Center for Systems Science, John Hopkins University and Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, 5 April 2020.