It’s finally happened. The day we’ve been fearing is finally here.
Reader: Singapore has added bubble tea to the list of banned drugs and intoxicating substances?
Uh, not quite.
Covid-19 Now A Pandemic
On Wednesday (11 March), The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, pointing to 120,000 cases of the disease across more than 110 countries.
WHO’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the organisation is “deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction”.
He did add, however, that “all countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”
So, what exactly is a pandemic?
Epidemic vs Pandemic
According to WHO, an epidemic is an outbreak of a disease that has widespread in a particular country or region. This is what happened when the disease first started spreading in China and other countries in Asia.
Conversely, a pandemic is a wide geographic spread of the same disease in many parts of the world, across many continents.
Countries all over the world have reported Covid-19 cases, from Singapore and South Korea to Italy and France.
Pandemic =/= Very Bad Disease
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr Anthony Fauci said that declaring a disease a pandemic is “borderline semantics” because it means “different things to different people”.
Similarly, MERS was never declared a pandemic even though it had a high mortality rate of around 35% because it wasn’t very contagious.
So, just because Covid-19 has been labelled a pandemic doesn’t mean that it’s worse than SARS or MERS.
The reason for declaring a disease a pandemic is not to cause unreasonable fear but to change the way the disease is combated at the international level.
This could mean changes in travel policy, disruptions to public events, and increased social distancing.
In other words, don’t think that Covid-19 is deadlier than what you thought it was.
Has Anything Really Changed?
Now, it’s normal to panic upon seeing the word “pandemic”. But here’s the right question to ask: Has anything really changed?
The reason WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic is because cases outside China have increased 13-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled.
But within Singapore, it’s still under control. As long as Singaporeans stop being socially irresponsible lah.
So, the change from epidemic to pandemic does not mean that the fight is over and that we can’t do anything about it.
Far from it.
According to Science News, the shift in language doesn’t reflect a change in their thinking about the threat posed by Covid-19, nor does it change their response.
“We are not suggesting to shift from containment to mitigation,” Ghebreyesus said.
The WHO chief said that the change in language should be taken as a signal to double down on efforts to contain the virus and mitigate its spread. Which Singapore is already doing, by the way.
Such efforts, experts say, can prevent huge spikes in cases that overwhelm health systems.
So, there’s really no need to panic.
More than half of the Covid-19 patients in Singapore have recovered. 9 are in the ICU and the rest are either stable or improving.
So, before you rush out to stock up on toilet paper and soya sauce, take a deep breath, relax, and have a bubble tea instead.