Stay healthy, don't panic but don't be complacent

March 17, 2020 11:30
The vigilance of Hong Kong people has helped much in controlling the spread of coronavirus in the city. Photo: AFP

While China, after implementing radical control measures, appears to be containing the coronavirus outbreak, other parts of the world are just beginning to come to grips with this public health nightmare.

Covid-19 infections and deaths globally have now surpassed those in China, and the virus is fast spreading in Europe, which is now the epicenter of the outbreak, as well as in the United States and Iran.

And as nations impose mandatory quarantines and close their borders, businesses are suffering, and the talk has switched from slowing growth to a global recession.

It's not all doom and gloom, however.  The World Health Organization has described the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic, but stressed that it is not uncontrollable.

Although the sharp rise in the number of deaths from the disease is unsettling, the recovery rate is high. Tom Hanks, who was infected along with his wife Rita Wilson while he was shooting a film in Australia, got out of the hospital on Monday.

The outbreak is still spreading fast in Europe and other parts of the globe, but it appears to be slowing in Asian countries and regions, including Hong Kong, in view of their early containment efforts as well as the vigilance and cooperation of their citizens.

But panic appears spreading faster than the virus itself as people empty supermarket shelves, with rice and toilet rolls disappearing fast.

Fear has also gripped stock markets worldwide. Over just two weeks, listed companies in Wall Street have lost roughly US$2 trillion of their value as panicky investors dumped their holdings. The meltdown continued even after the Fed and other central banks slashed interest rates.

US President Donald Trump, after earlier insisting that the disease was under control, is now saying that the situation is bad and the outbreak could last until July or August at the earliest.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that infections could double every five days unless drastic action was taken. He advised Britons to avoid pubs, theaters and restaurants as well as non-essential travel.

Here in Hong Kong, the possibility of a second wave of infections emerges as students from Britain, Europe and North American countries come back home to the city for the spring break.

Many parents believe their kids are safer here, which is true to a large degree, given our solid healthcare infrastructure and the level of awareness of the virus among the people.

This outbreak is serious so we must not be complacent. Follow the news and know what is happening in our surroundings. But we don't have to panic. The best thing we can do for ourselves and our loved ones is to stay healthy.

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EJ Insight writer