In this article we try to answer: When will things be back to normal? Who is at risk? What are the most common myths?
Please note: I am not public health or medical professional. I usually write about personal finance or self-development. However, due to the fact that there is so much false information about COVID-19 and many people think that COVID-19 is just the flu or old people’s disease, I decided to write a summary based on facts that have been presented by respectable sources. You can also find a few useful links at the end of this article.
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new disease that is caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. COVID-19 symptoms are fever, tiredness, and dry cough, which usually are mild and begin gradually.
The primary mechanism for transmitting the virus is breathing. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or even breaths next to you, you can get infected.
The incubation period (time between catching the virus and beginning to show symptoms) can range from 1 to 14 days and most commonly is 5 days. These estimates are based on the most recent data from the WHO.
At the moment there is no medicine that can cure or prevent the illness.
Who Is at Risk?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 80% of people recover from the disease without needing hospitalization. However, the rest may experience severe breathing problems, may need hospitalization and the worst-case scenario is death (3-4% average mortality rate estimate by the WHO).
The highest risk groups are old people and people with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity or heart problems. There is also an increased risk for smokers.
Why Should I Care if I’m Young?
If you are young and healthy, with a very low risk of dying from COVID-19, you might think that you can get on with your daily routine. But you are wrong. The biggest risk is that you might get the virus and be highly infectious even if you have no apparent symptoms. Effectively, you would become a walking time bomb and spread the disease to everyone around you without knowing about it.
Don’t be that person. Be considerate of others and help to prevent the spread of the virus by taking protective measures, such as staying home if you feel ill, washing your hands and avoiding events with many people.
Where Did It Come From?
This new virus and the disease were unknown prior to the outbreak. The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in December 2019. Wuhan is a city with 11 million inhabitants and is the capital of the Hubei Province.
The first victim was a 55-year-old man from Hubei province, who got sick on 17 November 2019. In January 2020, the disease began spreading rapidly in Hubei, causing unknown cases of pneumonia. The Chinese government then undertook an investigation and found that many cases have been related to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which besides seafood also sells exotic and live animals.
At the moment, it is believed that the virus “jumped” from animal to human (zoonosis).
On January 23rd the city of Wuhan and other cities in the region were placed on lockdown by the Chinese Government.
Subsequently, on 11 March 2020, COVID-19 was recognised as a pandemic by the WHO.
The Current Situation
As of 17th March, these are the statistics on COVID-19 by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University:
- Approximately 182,000 cases reported in more than 160 countries
- Most affected countries so far are China, Italy, Iran, South Korea and Spain
- More than 7,100 people have died from the disease
- More than 79,000 people have recovered from the disease
*This source gets updated every day, so if you are reading after March 17, you can see the latest numbers here.
As a result, many countries have taken drastic measures to “flatten the curve” – meaning to lower the rate of infection to spread out the epidemic over time. This way, the number of people who are sick at a given point in time does not exceed the capacity of the healthcare system (see chart below).
On 9 March 2020, Italy imposed a national quarantine restricting the movement of the population, except for work, necessity and health circumstances. Non-essential shops and businesses have also been closed.
China has also imposed a lockdown in several cities and especially in the province of Hubei, affecting a total of 57 million people.
As a response to the situation, Germany has pledged to spend whatever necessary to protect its economy and German businesses.
What Can I Do to Help?
- Stay home if you feel sick or don’t feel well, you are too big of a risk to others.
- Regularly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
- Stay away from crowds (there’s no magic number since you can get infected even if only one person has COVID-19 near you).
- Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
- Explain the situation to your friends and family so they don’t take this lightly.
- Stay informed – read the facts and follow the situation. A good source is the WHO.
- Avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products.
- Don’t travel overseas, especially by plane (it’s likely that you can’t do that in many countries anymore).
- Support the elders so they don’t have to go out. For example, buy them groceries and leave them outside of the door.
- COVID-19 is an old people’s disease. No, evidence shows that people of all ages can be infected by the new COVID-19. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
- Is it safe to receive a package from China or Italy? Yes! The likelihood that an infected person has contaminated a package and the virus has survived different weather conditions and temperatures is very low.
- Can I catch COVID-19 from my pet? To date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19.
- Will a face mask protect me from COVID-19? According to the WHO, there is no evidence that wearing a mask will protect you from the virus. However, if you are sick or taking care of a sick person, you should wear a mask. Bear in mind that stocking up on masks makes fewer available for sick patients and health care workers who need them the most.
- Will the virus go away in spring? No. From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in all areas, including areas with hot and humid weather.
- Can I kill the virus by taking a sauna or a hot bath? No! This will not prevent you from catching COVID-19.
When Will Things Be Back to Normal?
It is not clear yet. To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019.
According to Michael Osterholm (American public-health scientist and biosecurity and infectious-disease expert), the virus won’t go away when the season changes.
Osterholm concludes that – one thing that we know for sure is that the virus is not going to go away tomorrow. It’s going to carry on for several months at least or even till the end of 2020. We should be able to make better estimations with each passing month. The end of it should be either a vaccine or “herd” immunity. If many of us had had COVID-19 and recovered from it, we would have immunity, which would eventually slow down the virus.
Other Useful Links
- COVID-19 global cases tracker by CSSE
- World Health Organisation COVID-19 Q&A
- COVID 19 by Centres for Disease Control and Prevention
- Wikipedia on 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic
- Covid myths by World Health Organisation
- Joe Rogan show with American public-health scientist and a biosecurity and infectious-disease expert Michael Osterholm
- COVID-19 health advice for people with asthma
- Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – Statistics and Research by Our World in Data