As of 10:00 AEDT March 24th 2020, the World Health Organisation reports that there are more than 370,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally.1 By the time you’re reading this post, this number will have likely exceeded 400,000. There have been 16,000 deaths worldwide. We can also expect the death toll to increase steadily into the near future.
Many of those deaths, now surpassing 6,000, have occurred in Italy.2 The country has been amongst the hardest hit by the deadly virus. Italian doctors are urging other countries to “immediately adopt very restrictive measures to limit viral diffusion, ensure an appropriate health-system response, and reduce mortality.”3
Overnight, the United Kingdom heeded that call and imposed a blanket shutdown over the country. People in the UK will only be allowed to leave their home for essentials, for one session of exercise per day, medical care, or “absolutely necessary work.”
Closer to home, Australia has 1,823 cases of COVID-19, including 7 deaths. 119 people have recovered from the illness. There has been a mixed response to the virus from Australian state governments in response to the crisis.4
In Victoria and the ACT, schools are closed from today. Queensland will shut its borders effective midnight tonight, while South Australia, Western Australian and Tasmania have already done the same. The latter has imposed the strictest border measures.
Just this morning, the Tasmanian Premier restricted travel to the state to residents and “essential travellers.” Previously, people could arrive in the state if they agreed to self-isolate at home for two weeks; however, this requirement has been tightened to apply to residents only.
New South Wales remains the hardest hit by the virus. The state has the highest level of infection in Australia, over 800 cases, and saw 149 new infections overnight.5 In a news conference this morning, the New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian announced that the state was at a “critical stage” and pleaded that members of the community stay home, avoid unnecessary contact with others, and if forced to self-isolate do so, or face severe penalties.
So, is there any good news? Thankfully, over 100,000 people who contracted coronavirus have recovered. Also, although it is unclear whether reinfection is possible, the United Kingdom’s chief scientific advisor said recently, that those who contract the illness and recover should develop some level of immunity from reinfection.6 A study done by Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, points to a hopeful, if small, study in Macaque monkeys.7
China is reporting no new locally transmitted infections, all new cases have arrived from international travellers returning to China.8
Moreover, Doctors in India have seen success in treating patients with COVID-19. The doctors used a combination of drugs: Lopinavir, Retonovir, Oseltamivir along with Chlorphenamine. They are going to advocate other countries use this medicine to treat patients.9
The Economic Times reported that the combination of two anti-HIV drugs had proven crucial to the treatment of coronavirus patients. India’s Union of Health Ministry revised its guidelines to recommend the use on a case-by-case basis.10
Nevertheless, it is unclear how effective these drugs will end up being or if they will be implemented in treatment worldwide. Currently, there are no drugs proven effective in treating the illness. There is still no end in sight for this pandemic.11
1 World Health Organisation, ‘Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) situation reports’, accessed 24 March 2020, last updated 24 March 2020 <https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports/>.
2 European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, ‘Situation update worldwide, as of 23 March 2020’, accessed 24 March 2020, last updated 23 March 2020. <https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/geographical-distribution-2019-ncov-cases>.
3 Saglietto, D’Ascenzo et al., ‘COVID-19 in Europe: the Italian lesson’, The Lancet, March 23 2020, <https://www.thelancet.com/pb-assets/Lancet/pdfs/S0140673620306905.pdf>
4 Australian Government Department of Health, ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19) current situation and case numbers’, accessed 24 March 2020, last updated 24 March 2020 <https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-current-situation-and-case-numbers#current-status>.
6 Denis Campbell, ‘Can you get the coronavirus twice?’ The Guardian, 17 March 2020 <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/16/the-big-question-over-coronavirus-can-a-person-get-it-twice>.
7 Bao, Deng et al., ‘Reinfection could not occur in SARS-CoV-2 infected rhesus macaques’ BioRxiv, 13 March 2020 <https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.13.990226v1.article-info>.
8 Reuters, ‘China Sees Drop in New Coronavirus Cases; All New Cases Imported’, The New York Times, 22 March 2020 <https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2020/03/22/world/asia/22reuters-health-coronavirus-china.html>.
9 The Economic Times, ‘Combination of two anti-HIV drugs proved crucial in Coronavirus treatment, Rajasthan official’ The Economic Times, 16 March 2020 <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/combination-of-two-anti-hiv-drugs-proved-crucial-in-coronavirus-treatment-rajasthan-official/articleshow/74653762.cms>.
11 Cao, Wang et al., ‘A Trial of Lopinavir–Ritonavir in Adults Hospitalized with Severe Covid-19’, The New England Journal of Medicine, 18 March 2020, <https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2001282>.