Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Update

Since it’s first reported cases in December 2019, Coronavirus (Covid-19) has now spread to all continents of the world except Antarctica. As of 11th March, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reassessed Covid-19 as a pandemic, which requires global action to stem its spread. This reassessment was made based on the alarming rate of spread of the virus, as well as the recent shift in the infection epicenter from Asia to Europe. In line with this new assessment, WHO is calling for heightened global response to stem potential community spread.

Photo credit: Miami University, 2020

The past few weeks have seen a decline in infection rates in Asia (especially South Korea and China), but an increase in infection and recorded deaths in the United states of America. Infection and death rates have also surged across Europe, the middle east and Oceania. Africa and parts of Latin America has recorded new cases due to international travel but overall low rate of spread and related death. The available statistics from WHO shows that the global estimated mortality rate has risen from 2-3.4% as at 3rd March.

This alarming trend has led to cancellation of public gatherings of >50 people across the globe including large sporting events, political gatherings and in some cases schools. Some countries including the United States have issued a travel ban to stem community spread related to international travel. Countries in Africa are quarantining international travelers and repatriating travelers who refuse to be quarantined. Several companies and institutions are asking non-essential workers to work from home, and self-isolation for any staff or students who have had recent travel. These proactive measures are believed to halt the rate of spread of the virus.

Here in Canada, there are a total 244 confirmed cases, of which Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta have the highest cases. There have so far been 11 resolved cases and 1 Covid-19 related death. In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick has recorded two presumptive cases, Prince Edward Island has recorded 1 confirmed case while the first presumptive case was reported in Newfoundland and Labrador on March 14th. Nova Scotia has however not reported any presumptive or confirmed cases as at the filing of this report.

Within Memorial University, there have been concerns about the potential impact of class cancellation (if the need arises) especially after the cancellations due to January’s Snow storm. So far, there has been no clear talk of cancellations of classes, or what would necessitate such action. However, university related travels have been cancelled and many conferences/events planned within the University have been postponed. Perhaps the new presumptive case (if confirmed) may set the pace for the next steps which may or may not include cancellation of classes. Overall, the mood among students and NL at large is that of uncertainty about a pandemic potentially hitting home. This uncertainty has necessitated the stocking up on supplies (especially toilet paper), in preparation for the whatever this ‘pandemic’ brings.


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