The outbreak, which the World health organization has referred to as an international Public Health concern, has triggered research, funding and action from health agencies across the globe, countries and governments, as well as private and personal efforts. The WHO has said that the sum of $675 million for preparedness and response plan would need to be launched. This plan would cover the months of February through April.
In China, the government has put immigration measures in place to ease the entry of non-governmental organizations willing to come in and offer assistance in the fight against the outbreak. Humanitarian relief organizations such as Project HOPE have indicated interest in working through existing health systems and agencies in China. They have so far delivered 572,000 N95 respirator masks and over 340,000 gloves as well as other items such as shoe covers.
The USAID delivered protective gears to Laos. Save The Children Fund delivered 36,000 face masks to Indonesian hospitals and to Wuhan. Mèdecin Sans Frontieres has also offered to support health authorities in mainland China and Hong Kong.
Other companies with no direct involvement with the items needed for protection in the care for patients have lent support by other means. For example, the hospitals constructed in Wuhan over 10 days had beds supplied to it. The 1000-bed Huoshenshan Hospital and the 1600-Leishenshan Hospital had such fittings taken care of. The State Grid Corporation of China has also made power supply guaranteed in certain facilities with network cables channeled to the newly built facilities as well as the installation of 5G remote video diagnostic centers which has enabled medical staff to carry out diagnostic procedures on suspected patients remotely.
Another strategy than has been of help is the fight of misinformation. Companies like Baidu and Qihoo 360 have set up platforms on their apps that help users know in real-time the locations of confirmed and suspected cases of the virus. This information helps travelers in avoiding the affected regions and further reducing any potential of spread. Others like Tencent “Mepedia” and Ping An’s “AskBob” are artificial intelligence programs that serve as remote doctors in answering questions and providing verified information on preventive and protective protocols to its users. Because of the economic devastating effect of the thousands of people who have had to miss work because of the quarantine measures in place, other platforms have come up with ideas to help a lot of people work from home. These platforms include Alibaba’s DingTalk, Tencent’s WeChatWork and Meeting, ByteDance’s Feishu and Huawei’s WeLink. Such platforms have added features such as video conferences and call time, online check-ins and industry-specific solutions.
On the aspect of education, schools are closed all over China to prevent further and faster spread of the virus. However, it’s now easier for people to undertake classes and courses online. Online education platforms like Liulishuo, Onion Academy and Zuoyebang are offering free classes to students online, nationwide. Lecturers and university professors are not left out also as they can now conduct online classes to a wide range of their students who can attend these classes online from the comfort and safety of their homes.
Tech solutions are also being offered to aid speedier diagnosis and treatment. Software with Al computing capabilities, RNA predicting algorithms, high tech CT scanners, Al imaging, cloud platforms and remote advanced post-procession software are being made available to hospitals in Wuhan.
On the flip side, the global nature and approach to the corona virus outbreak has also brought about fringes in administration, political and diplomatic frictions. In the following weeks after the outbreak, questions and controversies have trailed the travel ban placed on Chinese citizens. This brings to mind the dilemma that surrounded the Ebola outbreak of 201 4-2016 in which prohibitions were put in place to stall travelers from west African countries, which was a violation of the IHR (International Health Regulations).
The widespread use of quarantine has also been a topic of controversy. The city of Wuhan was placed on cordon sanitaire, an unprecedented action. The 11 million inhabitants of the city have been totally barred from entering or leaving the city and on a larger scale, 760 million people across the country have been restricted and in some form of residential Lockdown. There is a mental side effect to this which many people have argued for and against. Other countries like the United States of America, Australia have also imposed some form of quarantine or the other and immigration processes have been under close monitoring. The WHO has however, been silent on the above quarantine measures and the outcry they have raised.
1. The Impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the Cruise Industry
Due to the peculiarities of cruise travel, which essentially brings a large number of persons together in close proximity, the risk of spread of infectious diseases are particularly high in such situations. This was seen in the case of the Diamond Princess Cruise ship which had embarked on a holiday trip to Yokohama, Japan that was to morph into a deadly nightmare. About 3,711 cruise passengers and crew members were caught in the disease outbreak, and about 621 of them were confirmed to carry the virus. After a prolonged quarantine that drew mixed criticisms from international quarters regarding the handling of cruise ships, over a thousand of the passengers were allowed to leave the ill-fated ship, but not before two of the infected passengers had died.
The criticism was largely as a result of existing cruise travel regulations which view passengers on board ships as being outside of national borders and hence, giving countries the freedom to either accept or reject their docking. Such measures may be seen to rather than control infection spread, actually worsen it. In some other cases, this might seem to be the prudent step to take. An example is seen in the Holland America’s Westerdam cruise ship which several countries rejected even with no reports on board of any cases of the virus, and which would later be accepted by Cambodia, a decision they may have regretted as it later was reported that one of the passengers tested positive for the virus. This regret however, may have been fortunately short-lived as the US CDC later confirmed that the passenger did not have the virus and indeed, neither did any of the other passengers.
Nevertheless, Cruise operators continue to take strategic control measures and have begun to either cancel or change their itineraries at the same time that countries all over the world are implementing travel restrictions to stem the spread of the virus. Ports are refusing to take in cruise ships which have been either to Chinese ports or which have on board, Chinese passengers.