August: Covid-19 Update

Coronavirus update for August:

 

August marks the 5th month since the coronavirus has been declared by the WHO as a global pandemic. Since then, it has infected a total of over 21 million people worldwide and has caused the death of around 700 people. The good news is that better healthcare management has resulted in the recovery of around 14 million people.

 

What has transpired in August so far?

Things have been quite better in August compared to the previous months. Leading the good news is the possibility of having a vaccine as early as October this year. 

The Oxford group’s (Scientists from Oxford University and AstraZeneca) vaccine has successfully passed Phase 1 and 2 trials with flying colors. Their vaccine has proved to be safe and has successfully provoked the human body to produce antibodies against the coronavirus. For those who are not aware, a vaccine must pass through several clinical trials or phases before being deemed safe for humans. It first undergoes a clinical trial where it’s tested on animals. Phase 1 trial is where it’s tested on a handful of individuals, then Phase 2 is where it’s tested on a few hundred individuals. Phase 3 is where it’s tested on thousands of individuals on multiple locations at the same time. Once the vaccine proves its worth, it then goes through the final stage which is the approval.

In the approval stage, the results of the clinical trials are inspected by a nation’s health regulatory body and once it passes this final scrutiny then it is already for public use. 

Two vaccines have been reached the “approved” stage so far. Russia’s Sputnik V has recently caused a buzz in the medical field as it has been Russian President himself is working on having it registered as the world’s first coronavirus vaccine. While it will still undergo Phase 3 trials in the coming months, it has already garnered a lot of interest from Asian countries such as India, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

The vaccine being jointly developed by CanSino Biologics and the Institute of Biology from China’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences has also been given a one-year “approved” status, albeit as an “especially needed drug”. The creators of the vaccine are working to conduct Phase 3 trials in Saudi Arabia and other countries.

 

Are things getting better?

The short answer is a resounding yes. Several countries have already been successful in containing the spread of the coronavirus. Asian countries and several other countries in Europe have also reported declining numbers when it comes to new cases.

In the US, it seems that we already experienced our peak number of cases. New infections are showing steady declines since we hit the 75,000 new infections per day mark. Largely populous states such as California and Florida have reported a large drop in new cases. California, whose new infections peaked at 12,000, is now reporting just 7,300 cases. Florida’s, meanwhile, new infections dropped from 10,000 to just 7,000.

Although a lot of factors have been in place that contributed to the decline of these cases, the mandatory wearing of face masks is likely one of the reasons why. Other factors include increased reminders to observe physical distancing and to follow stringent disinfection and sanitation practices. 

Face coverings, including masks, decrease the likelihood of someone getting infected with the coronavirus by as much as 85%. This number increases further if one wears other PPE such as gloves, gowns, and face shields. However, unless you’re a medical worker, wearing these other PPEs casually may not be practical.

On a related but lighter note, it seems the government in Dubai, UAE has found an effective way of “sniffing” if someone is infected with the virus. Just recently, the airport security in Dubai has deployed trained canines to identify infected people arriving. So far, the results of this method have been 91% accurate. 

 

Threats

Despite the numbers looking a bit brighter compared to the previous months, it is still no reason for everyone to be complacent. Several countries have reported a re-emergence for new cases after enjoying a few months of being virus-free. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand have now implemented granular lockdowns on their biggest and most populous cities. A move that hopes to contain this new wave of coronavirus infections. Reports say that this new wave of infections may be brought about by travelers not adhering to the quarantine protocols. Tokyo, South Korea, and Hong Kong, 3 of Asia’s most populous cities have also reported new infections in their respective jurisdictions prompting their governments to impose another round of lockdowns. 

Until a vaccine is successfully created, we can never be too complacent. The coronavirus is highly contagious. Medical groups and societies also have reason to believe that the virus, previously believed to be too heavy to be transmitted via airborne means, could indeed be possible to spread through it. This is still an ongoing investigation.

As such, nothing changes with the established protocols. In fact, the numbers show promising results since the mandatory orders to wear masks have been implemented. For those who are still confused, you don’t have to wear medical-grade masks such as N95s or KN95s or even surgical masks, all the time. Due to supply concerns, most of these are allocated for medical workers and institutions.

The general public can opt to don 3-ply, cloth masks with 3 layers and these are proven to be almost as effective as the medical-grade masks. What’s important is that we remain vigilant at all times. We understand that some of us probably have not seen our friends and family for some time and that a little get-together might be good but as much as possible, postpone your plans of joining gatherings with multiple people because that could easily be a coronavirus cesspool.

Once a vaccine is available, things will look brighter and we can expect the lockdown and distancing protocols to ease out. Until then, stay safe, stay home, always be on the lookout.