COVID-19 Outbreak is Uncharted Territory


The rapid increase in cases of COVID-19 leaves manufacturers from all industries with no option but to make arrangements to stem impending workforce challenges.

As of March 2, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports 88,913 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in more than 55 countries on six different continents.

“Every country needs to be ready to detect cases early, to isolate patients, trace contacts, provide quality clinical care, prevent hospital outbreaks and prevent community transmission,” warned WHO’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Taking Stock of COVID-19

While the main emphasis is and should be on containing and mitigating the spread of the virus, economic impacts are proving to be significant.

Last Friday, the three main U.S. indexes ended the week at one of the lowest points since the 2008 financial crisis, but appeared to rebound on Monday after policymakers signaled readiness to act to stabilize the economy. “The IMF and the World Bank Group stand ready to help our member countries address the human tragedy and economic challenge posed by the COVID-19 virus… We will use our available instruments to the fullest extent possible, including emergency financing, policy advice, and technical assistance,” read a joint statement.

CDC’s laboratory test kit for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). WHO announced “COVID-19” as the name of this new disease on Feb. 11, 2020.CDC

Shifting into High Gear

The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on Jan. 30. WHO officials have since increased the global risk of the coronavirus to “very high”—its top level of risk assessment.

In response, the United States and other countries instituted temporary travel restrictions, which may have slowed the spread of COVID-19 somewhat, observed federal scientists from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

They warn that if the disease begins to spread in U.S. communities, containment may no longer be a realistic goal. In this case, “response efforts likely will need to transition to various mitigation strategies, which could include isolating ill people at home, closing schools and encouraging telework,” commented the officials in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Global companies, such as Trelleborg AB, that have employees slated to travel to high-risk areas, are heeding the warning signs. “We are monitoring the situation very carefully with regards to our employees’ well-being and commitments to customers,” said Karin Larsson, Trelleborg’s vice president of Media Relations.

The engineered polymer solutions business follows recommendations made by local authorities and has advised employees against all travel to Hubei Province in China. “Based on our travel pattern and business operations we advise against all but essential travel to Mainland China, South Korea cities Daegu and Cheongdo, Italy and the regions of Lombardy and Veneto,” said Larsson, adding that employees who have recently been in an affected country may be required to enter a period of quarantine.

Trelleborg employees have also been advised to pay attention to general hygiene, avoid contact with sick people and reconsider travel if they are sick, said Larsson. The company urges anyone with symptoms of pneumonia—which include high fever and shortness of breath—to seek medical attention, said Larsson.

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like.This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like.NIAID-RML

Clinical Trials Underway

There are many research efforts underway to address COVID-19. These include numerous vaccine candidates proceeding toward early-stage clinical trials.

Clinical trials underway to test candidate therapeutics include an NIAID-sponsored trial of the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir that began enrolling participants on Feb. 21.

China reportedly has more than 80 running or pending clinical trials on potential treatments for COVID-19, reports Wired.

WHO reports it has shipped testing kits to 57 countries and personal protective equipment to 85 countries and has trained more than 80,000 health workers through online courses in multiple languages. The agency has also issued operational guidelines with specific actions to take in eight key areas to prevent, detect and manage cases.

Dealing with the virus is not no one-size fits all approach. “Different countries are in different scenarios,” said WHO’s Ghebreyesus during a media briefing on COVID-19 on March 2.

“WHO is advising countries on actions they can take for each of the “three Cs” scenarios—first case, first cluster, first evidence of community transmission,” Ghebreyesus said.

“We are in [uncharted] territory. We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures.”

The Situation in Numbers

  • Outside China, a total of 8,774 cases of COVID-19 have been reported to WHO from 64 countries, with 128 deaths.
  • Across the U.S. borders, the number of cases are as follows: Canada (19), Brazil (2), Mexico (2) and Ecuador (1).
  • As of March 1, 2020, there were 62 reported laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases, including two deaths in the United States.
  • China has 80,174 confirmed cases, including 2,915 deaths
  • Globally, 88,948 confirmed cases



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