Is the coronavirus disease outbreak slowing down?

Chinese officials recorded the lowest number of new coronavirus cases in two weeks, supporting a medical adviser’s projection that the outbreak may end by April. Is the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) ending soon?

The new coronavirus disease outbreak started in late December 2019 and has since infected thousands of people each day. Typically, an infection toll may reach more or less 3,000 new infections and at least 100 deaths each day since January 2020. But on Feb. 13, the recorded new infections were the lowest ever recorded, with just 1,826 new infections globally.

Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a leading epidemiologist who helped in the combat against the SARS epidemic in 2003, says some provinces reported improvement with declining numbers of new cases. He added that the peak time of the outbreak might occur in the middle or late February, then infections may reach a plateau or leveling off, then will decline after that.

Further, he explained that locking down and containment measures in Wuhan city, where the virus first emerged, were essential and helped contain the virus, adding that the country should ban trade in wildlife permanently to prevent other virus outbreaks from happening in the future.

Conflicting numbers

The latest death toll is now 1,368, and the total number of people infected reached nearly 60,364 people according to the Center For Systems Science and Engineering at JHU. If the coronavirus disease is ending, why is there a sudden spike of the infection tally?

Though the number of infections on Thursday was about 1,800, the lowest daily new infection record, the number of new deaths increased to a staggering 254, which is twice the number of the average daily death toll since January. Further, there was a huge increase in new cases, with 14,840 people confirmed. However, after the sharp increase, the number of people diagnosed started to stabilize.

There has been confusion with the new tally, and there was a massive jump in the number of cases and deaths related to COVID-19. This follows when authorities have changed the way they calculate the figures. On Feb. 13, the number of fatalities doubled, and new confirmed cases rose by almost 15,000.

The government explained that the spike is due to a change in how cases were tabulated, with the total cases include those who had been clinically diagnosed to have the infection. In China, with the sudden rise of infected individuals, it’s harder to get tested and treated for the virus. Hence, those who had manifested the symptoms of the disease and were diagnosed by doctors through their symptoms were added to the toll.

Clinically diagnosed patients mean that they demonstrated all the symptoms of COVID-19, but have been unable to be tested, treated, or they had died before they got tested positive of the virus.

In Hubei province alone, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, there are about 34,000 people hospitalized, which included approximately 1,400 who are in a critical condition. At the same time, 3,441 patients have recovered and have been discharged from the hospital.

Too early to tell

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that it’s too early to know if the outbreak is ending, and it may go in any direction. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the apparent slowdown should be viewed with caution since the virus could spread elsewhere.

He added that what everyone should do is prepare. He fears that when the virus reaches a country with a weak health system, it can wreak havoc and uncontrollable infections.

Another expert also said that though the numbers might be decreasing in China, the outbreak is just starting in other countries like Singapore, which reported 50 confirmed cases, and the number is increasing rapidly.
In Singapore’s biggest bank, DBS, 300 employees were evacuated when one person had gotten sick with the coronavirus. All the other employees worked on the same floor as the patient.

“It has spread to other places where it’s the beginning of the outbreak. In Singapore, we are at the beginning,” Dale Fisher, head of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network coordinated by the WHO, said.

It’s too early to say if the outbreak is starting, in the middle, or about to end. Outside mainland China, there are more than 300 infections, with just two deaths – one in Hong Kong and the other in the Philippines.

Cruise ship rejected in five countries

Meanwhile, a cruise ship carrying about 2,000 passengers was denied in five ports – Japan, Guam, Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines. The ship, MS Westerdam had docked in Cambodia. The vessel has no sick patients on board, but the case of another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, stirred fears that the passengers may carry the deadly virus.

Diamond Princess, with 3,700 people on board, has been quarantined in Japan, and patients, as well as crew members, weren’t allowed to leave the ship. During the quarantine period, 218 people tested positive of the virus, but not everyone has been tested yet.

The passengers and crew members who had the virus were transferred to hospitals for treatment, while those still on board were confined in the cabins.

Sources:

Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE - https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

World Health Organization (WHO). (2020). Novel Coronavirus 2019 - https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

World Health Organization (WHO). (2020). World experts and funders set priorities for COVID-19 research - https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/12-02-2020-world-experts-and-funders-set-priorities-for-covid-19-research

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

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Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.

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