GP Insights # 319, 4 April 2020
As the world struggles to cope with the outbreak of COVID-19, Asia stares at the second wave of the pandemic. China (including Hong Kong), Japan, Singapore, and South Korea are at the risk of importing new cases, with some people returning back to these countries. Additionally, the recovered patients are being affected the second time, and there are concerns about the rise in the number of asymptomatic cases.
China reported at least 35 such new cases, while Singapore saw 33 new cases. Other countries are yet to clearly point out the number of 'imported' cases.
What is the background?
The number of cases now stands at 1,139,120 with 236,214 people recovered and 61,144 deaths. The United States reports 277,613 cases, the highest in the world. Italy is the worst affected in terms of mortality, standing at 14,681.
China, the country of origin, successfully flattened the curve and did not report any new locally-transmitted case during the previous week. South Korea, which saw a quick surge in cases in the initial stages, could control the cases due to the successful implementation of tracing-testing-isolation strategy. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore are also the success stories in Asia. However, they are now at the risk of the second wave.
What does it mean?
First, the second wave of COVID-19 sees an imposition of a new set of measures. China has strict restrictions for the entry of citizens as well as people having valid visas and resident permits for an indefinite period. International flights are also restricted to one per week and the travellers should undergo compulsory quarantine for two weeks. Taiwan has closed its borders and ordered the citizens returning, to undergo a two-week quarantine. Hong Kong also follows a similar policy. New entrants into the province will be tracked by a mandatory 'electronic bracelet'.
South Korea and Japan are weighing the options of extending border controls and imposing restrictions on the movement of people, particularly their citizens abroad and other foreigners. The Prime Minister of Singapore announced one-month lockdown to fight the pandemic. This comes after the sudden surge in cases and reports of local transmission emerging again.
Second, if the second wave of the virus becomes a more serious concern in the coming days, the economies are at stake. These countries/provinces are manufacturing and commercial hubs, dependent on industries and the movement of people. The economy has already suffered adversely since the outbreak of COVID-19 in late December and a second bout would be catastrophic.
The key is to continue the measures that flattened the curve in March and strictly implement the new measures.