People should be on high alert as COVID-19 cases continue to be reported worldwide, health experts at National Taiwan University (NTU) said yesterday.
A lack of transparent and real-time data from China have caused “great difficulty” in providing estimates and the coronavirus presents a “greater threat” to Taiwan due to the nation’s close ties to China, said College of Public Health dean Chan Chang-chuan (詹長權).
COVID-19 “is already a global epidemic,” college vice dean Tony Chen (陳秀熙) said.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
Although much of the focus has been on the outbreak in China, the disease is bound to reach beyond Asia at significant levels if travel-related prevention measures are not bolstered, Chen said.
As cases have been reported in North America, Europe and Africa, “everyone in the world is indeed ... under a lot of pressure,” he said.
Variations in the fatality rate of COVID-19 in different parts of China indicate differences in healthcare supply and demand, and people’s attitudes toward seeking treatment, he said.
He urged people with symptoms to seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
Once the “golden period” for treatment passes, the virus could be fatal, especially for people with chronic conditions, Chen said.
Although the number of cases in China has begun to drop as a result of lockdown and quarantine measures, the fatality rate and transmission rates in China’s Hubei Province remain high, he said.
Epidemiologists are “most afraid of infectious diseases on cruises,” Chen said.
No one among those on the Diamond Princess docked in Yokohama, Japan, could have avoided exposure to the virus, he said.
The chance of infection on the ship is “relatively high,” Chen said.
The situation on the ship offers a “very important opportunity” to study COVID-19, he said.
Chan advised against “emotional” judgements as efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 continue.
Decisions should be “scientific,” “rational” and “calm,” he said. “Do what should be done.”
Separately, Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), who is a surgeon, said that local transmission of COVID-19 are bound to happen, but the goal should be to keep the cases sporadic and controlled.
He wears a mask out of politeness when he takes the bus and is in enclosed spaces with other people, but he does not wear one in his office, Ko said.
People should wear a mask depending on their evaluation of the risk of infection, he said.
Asked if he would consider imposing a lockdown in Taipei if there were a local outbreak, Ko said that if there are a cluster of cases, he would suggest moving people out of the community rather than locking the area down.
However, Taiwan has great healthcare capacity, so an out-of-control situation, such as in Wuhan — the Chinese city where the disease originated — is unlikely, he said.
Additional reporting by Lee I-chia
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