A polite request for more civil responsiveness and patience!

SBS Swiss Business School in Zurich, Switzerland > A polite request for more civil responsiveness and patience!

The Coronavirus risks are known in Switzerland since March 13, 2020 when the Swiss federal governmental authorities introduced a series of measurements to prevent a massive outbreak of the virus in the country.  

Coronavirus has caused more than one million infections worldwide, and as it has progressed from epidemic to pandemic, the disease has acquired a new name, known as Covid-19. Scientists gave the strain an interim name of 2019-nCov, accounting for the year of discovery, its status as a ‘novel’ virus, and its family name (Cov).

Covid -19 was initially detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan and reported as a deadly virus and a possible threat to the global care system in the open access journal of Infectious diseases by Prof. Hui et al. on January 14, 2020.

Although we are already three weeks under the Swiss governmental restrictions, younger audiences in our society seem to still be far less concerned about Covid-19. The naïve perception among them is that no single young person can die or be infected as long as they don’t suffer from other underlying symptoms.

How true is this perception, and what can we learn from other countries? To clearly understand the current situation, we have decided to examine all relevant data published till April 2, 2020 by the Hong Kong Centre of Health Protection. The first and so called “zero patient” was a 39 year old male, who was not even a Hong Kong resident but imported the disease into the region. Out of the eight hundred and three (803) hospitalized reported cases, 54% were male and 46% were female. To tackle the issue deeper, we decided to further divide the entire age bracket into smaller sub-categories since patients ranged from 1 to 96 years of age.

Age   Sex   Total within a group %
0-10   F 3 7 0.87%
    M 4    
11-20   F 59 140 17.43%
    M 81    
21-30   F 89 178 22.17%
    M 89    
31-40   F 73 161 20.05%
    M 88    
41-50   F 41 97 12.08%
    M 56    
51-60   F 49 105 13.08%
    M 56    
61-70   F 38 79 9.84%
    M 41    
71-80   F 15 28 3.49%
    M 13    
81-90   F 4 6 0.75%
    M 2    
91-100   F 2 2 0.25%
    M 0    

As the graphic data shows, the average age of the infected patient is 38.5 years. Furthermore, the data indicates that young people between 21-30 years old form the largest group of all age groups, accounting 22 % of the total number. Evidently young adults can contract the virus, since Covid-19 is not only pandemic but quite democratic, and it can seriously attack younger peer groups too. Seemingly, this information should be taken as a cautious warning by all youngsters out there!

Another question we try to answer is if patients contract the virus either by physical contact or via import? If cases are then imported, how are they examined? A great example is the case of 50,000 HK students living and studying in the UK, who decided to return to Hong Kong due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Many of them returned to Hong Kong via one-way ticket, costing them between CHF 1700 – 4500 per person. Some may have carried the virus without knowing while others didn’t have any symptoms, due to the incubation time.

This paper is clearly a plea for self-responsibility and respect to co-citizens. If you go abroad, and your body temperature may or may not be measured at the airport, you should still voluntarily go into quarantine for a couple weeks anyway. The idea of `Staying Home’ is to not infect your peers or put others in danger for no reason. Many may be able to survive from this pandemic disease, but it wouldn’t feel right to know that a person may have passed away because of your spreading behavior. Scientists yet need to examine if higher temperatures could bring new insights into the virus, combined with seasonal behavior.

Overall, as per the author’s humble opinion, social distancing can have a bigger effect than the seasonal behavior of the virus. And this is probably why South Korea is in much better position compared to its neighbors. One of the main reasons for South Korea’s success is its highly developed biotech industry that consists of smaller specialized firms led by scientists. In this Asian country, testing was conducted at early stages, free of charge, and all infected cases were placed in quarantine or self-isolation with immediate effect.

And So, when will this crisis be over? The answer is simple, once a vaccine is developed and people have anti-virus stems built in. Therefore, widespread testing is necessary to be carried out repeatedly and be conducted in such way to target the most vulnerable cases such as elderly homes, medical personnel, police staff and fire workers.  Once the number of infected cases is identified, we should again try to prevent a further outbreak by strictly controlling any social contacts of those people too.  Additionally, the virus outbreak can be better controlled if we ban domestic and international travels and restrict people from entering or leaving a country for a while. Hopefully, we can avoid Hong Kong’s case, where its air traffic was fully operational, although the region was in its third wave of the virus peak.

When can we yet return to the “new” normality? If we look at the data from Wuhan, the local Chinese authorities begun to relax the lockdown measures between 65th to 76th day after the lockdown declaration. Consequently, for Switzerland if we take ‘March 13, 2020’ as the initial date we should be able to be less strict with the lockdown measures between 18th – 29th May 2020. So, patience is what’s required for now. Relaxing the lockdown measures is something that many of us wish to happen soon, however, we still need to keep in mind that Singapore has currently a second wave and Hong Kong is facing its third wave of infections.

Finally, what we recommend for now is to wear a mask, out of politeness to other co-citizens. Wearing a mask may not be (yet) something widely accepted, but if someone dies from your asymptomatic COVID-19 infection, then there is no other choice. This alone wouldn’t of course certainly solve the problem. Therefore, social distancing along with regular hand washing may still be the best way to protect yourself and others. So please invest into your health by practicing social distancing and following the most basic rule of hygiene, i.e. hand washing!

Keep on having SBS learning fun!

Bert Wolfs, Ph.D.

Academic Dean

Source: CHP of the HK Department of Health.

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