GP Insights

GP Insights # 271, 29 February 2020

Coronavirus spreads to Italy, Iran and South Korea: Cases at dangerous levels outside China
Harini Madhusudan

What happened?
Over forty-eight countries have reported cases of coronavirus, and this week a spike in the number of cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea was observed. South Korea has become the country with the second-highest number of cases after China; with a total of 2931 cases and 594 new cases reported in a single day on 29 February 2020. Officials have announced plans to check 200,000 people who have visited a church in Daegu that has now become one of the hot zones of the virus.

Iran reported a number of their top officials who have tested positive for the virus. BBC noted the death toll in Iran at 210, with a majority of cases from Tehran and the City of Qom; whereas the official toll announced by the Health Ministry was at 34. Italy has confirmed a total of 820 cases with the death toll at 21. The spread of the virus has been observed to have reached other European countries like Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, Greece and outside Africa, to Algeria and Brazil in Latin America.

What is the background?
An analysis done by the end of January 2020, saw the virus cases concentrated largely in East Asia, South East Asia and very few cases across the globe. However, by the end of February 2020, there has been a significant increase in the number of countries that have reported cases along with an increase in the total number of cases and deaths. Many countries have reorganised their methods of quarantine after it was seen as being ineffective. For two months, the approach to dealing with the cases have been underway only on an individual country basis.

There is no global effort to deal with the issue other than the travel ban and restrictions. There have been no updates on the vaccines and collective measures to tackle the issue that is now on its way to being a pandemic. Singapore, however, is seen showing some consistent cases of success in its treatment to the virus affected patients.

What does it mean?
The quarantine criticism might have to be taken seriously globally; the spike may be observed in other countries soon. The virus can no longer be contained in a region anymore. The failure to develop a medicine that could effectively treat the cases is questionable. The approach of countries to try and deal with the virus individually has been counterproductive. WHO would have to step up and take measures along with the countries to move beyond political considerations to get at a uniform solution to deal with the spread of the virus.

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