Since early January, the COVID-19, the official name given for the coronavirus, has been declared a public health emergency of international concern as the virus has now made a wider impact and reach than the SARS outbreak in 2003.
Within two and a half months, there have reportedly been more than 71,000 confirmed cases, with 99 percent of the cases in mainland China, and more than 1,700 deaths worldwide.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency is working to prepare Asia's citizens for protecting themselves. Communities where ADRA serves, have not been affected by COVID-19, but preparations are underway to help minimize the spread of the virus.
“Our office in Hong Kong will begin needs assessments once it is cleared to do so. We are working closely with the Chinese government and local authorities to adhere to the guidelines and avoid our staff from being exposed to health risks,” says Oliveira. “We have received requests for help from the Adventist Church in China and are in communication with them to meet their needs.”
Oliveira also shared that ADRA will provide training in Asia about how to reduce the risk of infection, and that preparedness plans are being developed in Africa and the South Pacific regions to combat the virus. ADRA in the Philippines has come up with a business continuity plan and is monitoring the situation, and ADRA’s Asia regional office has prepared a risk analysis for the country. “One of the biggest ways to arm oneself against health risks is through education and hygiene and sanitation practices,” he says.
ADRA is partnering with organizations, such as the Adventist Community Services, Airlink, Hong Kong Adventist Hospitals, and World Vision China, to help deliver N95 surgical respirators to hospitals and health care facilities across multiple provinces in central and eastern China, which has some of the highest rates of infections.
An N95 respirator is a respiratory protective device similar in shape and design to a regular face mask but used mainly by healthcare professionals. They provide a flush fit and are effective in the filtration and blockage of small airborne particles contaminated with germs, including virus and bacteria.
“Healthcare providers are in need of N95 respirators, but due to the surge in demand for them, it is difficult to obtain. We will be working to get those devices to providers as they are instrumental in providing care to the thousands of people being treated,” Oliveira says. “Aid also will be targeted to low-income families, especially those with elderly relatives, and the homeless."
Oliveira encouraged everyone to be proactive and diligent in preventing transmission to themselves and to others as the spread of the virus remains.
ADRA has tallied useful information about COVID-19 and hygiene recommendations by the WHO and CDC provided below.
What is COVID-19?
The novel coronavirus (previously known as 2019-nCoV) is a new strain of coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Believed to originally have been transmitted from animals to people in a live animal market (known as a “wet market”), the virus has now become transmissible from person to person. Like other coronaviruses, COVID-19 is likely to spread through coughing or sneezing, close personal contact such as shaking hands, and touching one’s mouth, nose, or eyes after touching contaminated objects.
Symptoms range from mild cold-like symptoms to severe pneumonia requiring hospitalization, and sometimes results in death, although most previously healthy people fully recover. Those most susceptible to becoming severely ill include older adults and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.
How can we protect ourselves?
- Frequently wash hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer for at least 20 seconds.
- Keep 1 meter/3 feet distance from anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms (such as cough or fever).
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Thoroughly cook meat and eggs before eating and avoid consumption of raw animal products.
- Avoid contact with sick animals and animals living in wet markets.
How can we protect others?
- Cover your nose and mouth with tissue or elbow (not hands) when coughing and sneezing.
- Throw tissues away into closed bins immediately after use.
- Wash hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer for at least 20 seconds after coughing, sneezing, and caring for others who are sick.
- Avoid close contact with others if you have cold or flu-like symptoms.
- Avoid travel if you have a fever and cough.
What to do if sick?
- If experiencing fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and share recent travel history.