To date, more than 2,400 deaths and 78,000 cases worldwide have been confirmed as a result of the coronavirus. Officially named COVID-19, the mortality and incidence of the disease are still rising, and these numbers will be even greater by the time you read this article.
In an age where data, technology, and connectivity are more advanced than ever before, each and every one of us bears personal responsibility for preventing the reach of a known epidemic. We live in a time where technology is at our fingertips and can be leveraged to potentially prevent public health emergencies, enabling all of us to share in and lighten the burden.
Digital transformation is changing every industry under the sun, and healthcare is no exception. As we move deeper into the digital technology era, we are met with a solution for not only minimizing illness but also public panic and economic crises that inevitably accompany a health epidemic. Implemented correctly, this technology could alleviate global fears, put data behind business decision making and, most importantly, save thousands of lives.
China Uses Alipay to Deploy Color-Coded Health Rating App
Tech giants in China are deploying a color-coded health rating system to help officials track the millions of people returning to work in the wake of the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak, The New York Times (NYT) reported on Sunday (March 1).
The government of Hangzhou collaborated with Alibaba and Ant Financial to create a smartphone app feature called the Alipay Health Code that segments people into three categories — green, yellow or red — based on their medical conditions and travel history. Tencent developed a similar program for the southern city of Shenzhen. The software determines if a person should be quarantined or allowed in public.
The NYT analyzed the software’s code and discovered that the feature appears to share data with law enforcement, which could start a precedent for new types of automated social control that could stay in place after the coronavirus is no longer an active threat.
Chinese residents sign up for Alipay Health Code using Alipay, Ant’s wallet app. The system is now being used in 200 cities and will be launched throughout the country, Ant said.
Zhou Jiangyong, Hangzhou’s Communist Party secretary, said the health rating software was “an important practice in Hangzhou’s digitally empowered city management” and supports the further use of similar tools, according to state news media.
People given a green health code are free to be in public and are given a QR code to check-in at subways, office buildings, and other densely populated public areas. Staff at checkpoints will scan the code and people’s temperatures before allowing them to enter a space.
How The Digital World Will Soften The Blow Of The Coronavirus
Sixty-seven years ago this month, Jonas Salk announced that he had successfully tested a vaccine for polio. Many in the U.S. breathed a huge sigh of relief. In 1952, polio was an epidemic that gripped the country, affecting 58,000 people that year, with 3,000 deaths, many of them children.
The summer season was when this highly infectious disease kicked into high gear. Parents took many precautions to avoid the risk of their kids contracting a virus that could weaken their bones or cause crippling deformities. They avoided crowded swimming pools, movie theaters or gatherings that brought kids and families together in close proximity.
Highly contagious diseases for which there are higher mortality rates than the flu and no known cure cause people to reconsider their plans — and cause companies to make decisions to protect their workforces from possible contagion. Countries are enforcing travel bans. Airlines and hotels are making the tough, but correct, decisions to restrict or even shut down travel to and from highly infected areas. Companies large and small — and their workforces — are making decisions not to travel unless it is essential, and to avoid large gatherings of people.
ADB Approves CNY130 Million Private Sector Loan to Support Coronavirus Response in China
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed an agreement for a private-sector loan of up to CNY130 million ($18.6 million) to Join town Pharmaceutical Group Co. Ltd. (Join town) in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The local currency loan will support Join town’s efforts to ensure a continued supply of essential medicines and personal protective equipment such as protective clothing, gloves, goggles, face masks, and respirators. The financing will also support Join town’s cooperation with the Red Cross in its efforts to respond to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Join town is the largest private pharmaceutical distributor in the PRC and is headquartered in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We are very grateful to ADB for its timely support for Join town at the frontline of the fight against the COVID-19 epidemic,” said the Vice-Chairman of Join town Liu Zhanjiang. “With ADB’s facility, we will further deliver drugs and urgently needed personal protective equipment to the most severely affected areas.”
The hard reality of coronavirus: There is no ‘cure’
While President Trump pushes pharmaceutical companies to “cure” coronavirus, healthcare experts are making sure to temper expectations—by warning the public that a vaccine could be months or even years away.
During Trump’s meeting with pharmaceutical representatives on Monday, Anthony Faucet, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned the public not to expect a quick vaccine. “He’s asking the question: When is it going to be deployable?” he said, referring to the president, “and that is going to be at the earliest a year to a year and a half.”
Coronavirus, after all, is spreading rapidly. There are over 93,313 confirmed cases worldwide and 3,118 deaths as of this writing, with at least 108 cases in the U.S. So far, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are recommending minor precautions such as frequent hand washing and keeping hands away from your face.
FT Health: Coronavirus — a time for trade-offs
While much remains unclear about the precise characteristics of coronavirus, there is little doubt about the tragic human impact or the significant economic consequences But it also raises the need for trade-offs that require much greater reflection. It is easy to attack the World Health Organization for not swiftly announcing an international health emergency or a pandemic at a time when much remains unclear, yet many companies and governments are imposing restrictions unilaterally that go well beyond what the best evidence would suggest is useful or effective.
It is likely that several hundred thousand people will die from the infection in the coming months. Yet similar numbers die each year from seasonal flu, not to mention tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. The attention and resources are drawn to tackling coronavirus, and its impact on health workers will lead to neglect of patients with other conditions. Isolation, treatment, and other emergency health measures against Covid-19 may help defer fatalities among those most at risk, notably the elderly and those with fragile immune systems. Yet many will soon succumb to other conditions, including different respiratory viruses.