Now that Corona has reached pandemic status, community transmission will rise exponentially unless steps are taken to mitigate spread. What do we know about Corona, and what can we expect going forward?
It is a new virus and as such, the world does not have immunity. This is why transmission occurs so quickly. It disproportionately affects the elderly, especially those with pre-existing health conditions. But the overwhelming majority of people will recover from it, without issues. So why the fuss?
The main threat is not the illness itself, but the stress on the healthcare system if too many vulnerable people contract it and require hospitalization. The concern is keeping the number of cases to a level the health care system can support. If this is accomplished, hospitals will be able to effectively manage those who need treatment, thereby reducing the number of deaths and slowing the spread.
Successful mitigation, and lack thereof, are evidenced by South Korea and Italy.
South Korea went into lockdown and tested thousands upon thousands of people with drive-thru testing centres. This allowed the government to rapidly identify clusters where the virus was likely to spread, and intervened. Now South Korea’s rate of incidence is dropping, with health care numbers staying below threshold.
Italy, on the other hand, experienced rapid community transmission and is now playing catch up. The nation is in lock down and the number of deaths have sky-rocketed.
Canada’s response has been measured and deliberate, and as such, community transmissions have been controlled. The government has been smart to remind citizens that, for the overwhelming majority, this virus poses no real danger, and in the coming months most are expected to catch and recover from it without medical intervention. In the meantime, seniors have been instructed to take extra care and isolate themselves from the public. The various provincial governments have chased down new cases, making sure all those in contact with infected people go into self-quarantine.
With the US blocking travellers coming from Europe; the NBA, NHL, and other major events pausing or cancelling; and the PM himself self-quarantining at this very moment, we have reached the point where we need to buckle down and make sure the dreaded “spike” does not happen in Canada.
Only time will tell, but if we remain vigilant, avoid panic, and take appropriate action to mitigate spread, our outcome should look more “South Korean” than “Italian”, to the benefit of all.