Topline: Sweden is taking a more liberal strategy to combat coronavirus than its European neighbors. As confirmed cases and deaths spike, some Swedes are calling for the government to rethink the country’s strategy.
Unlike the rest of the continent, people in Sweden as of Friday were still permitted to visit restaurants for sit-down meals, get a haircut and even send children under the age of 16 to school.
Sweden’s Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell has expressed skepticism about enforcing a sustained period of lockdown. While bans have been placed on gatherings of 50 or more people and Swedes have been told to avoid unnecessary travel, these are relatively laidback restrictions when compared to other European countries that are shutting down schools and restricting everyday movement.
The government instead has emphasized a set of guidelines, like encouraging increased hand washing, social distancing and limiting contact with vulnerable people, like those over age 70.
Recent numbers show Swedes appear to be following social distancing guidelines even when they’re not required by law. Passenger numbers on public transportation in the capital have fallen by half, and polls indicate that half of residents there are working from home.
However, some critics say people need more stringent guidelines to follow as both deaths and new cases have risen in the past week. Last month, more than 2,000 academics signed an open letter in March to demand tougher measures from the government
Crucial quote: “It is important to have a policy that can be sustained over a longer period, meaning staying home if you are sick, which is our message,” Tegnell said. “Locking people up at home won’t work in the longer term. Sooner or later people are going to go out anyway.”
Key background: The Swedish Health Agency reported 612 new cases on Friday alone, bringing the countrywide total to about 6,000. The same day, the death toll hit 333. Between 25 to 30 people have died each day. Stockholm has seen the most coronavirus cases, accounting for more than half of the whole country’s fatalities, according to Reuters CRI .
What to watch for: Whether coronavirus cases increase in Sweden in the coming weeks. According to The Daily Mail, one statistician in Sweden said half the population could become infected in April.
Interesting fact: According to YouGov data, Sweden is the country least afraid of the coronavirus pandemic, with only 31% of Swedes say they are “very” or “somewhat” scared that they will contract the virus.
The rapid spread of the coronavirus and the illness it causes called COVID-19 has sparked alarm worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency, and many countries are grappling with a rise in confirmed cases. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising people to be prepared for disruptions to daily life that will be necessary if the coronavirus spreads within communities.
Below, we’re responding to a number of questions about COVID-19 raised by Harvard Health Blog readers. We hope to add further questions and update answers as reliable information becomes available.
Yes, the virus can spread from one person to another, most likely through droplets of saliva or mucus carried in the air for up to six feet or so when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Viral particles may be breathed in, land on surfaces that people touch, or be transferred when shaking hands or sharing a drink with someone who has the virus.
Often it’s obvious if a person is ill, but there are cases where people who do not feel sick have the virus and can spread it.
Quarantines and travel restrictions now in place in many counties, including the US, are also intended to help break the chain of transmission. Public health authorities like the CDC may recommend other approaches for people who may have been exposed to the virus, including isolation at home and symptom monitoring for a period of time (usually 14 days), depending on level of risk for exposure. The CDC has guidelines for people who have the virus to help with recovery and prevent others from getting sick.
What is the incubation period for the coronavirus?
An incubation period is the time between being exposed to a germ and having symptoms of the illness. Current estimates suggest that symptoms of COVID-19 usually appear around five days on average, but the incubation period may be as short as two days to as long as 14 days.
What are the symptoms of the new coronavirus?
Fever, dry cough, and trouble breathing are the common symptoms of COVID-19. There have been some reports of gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) before respiratory symptoms occur, but this is largely a respiratory virus.
Those who have the virus may have no obvious symptoms (be asymptomatic) or symptoms ranging from mild to severe. In some cases, the virus can cause pneumonia and potentially be life-threatening.
Most people who get sick will recover from COVID-19. Recovery time varies and, for people who are not severely ill, may be similar to the aftermath of a flulike illness. People with mild symptoms may recover within a few days. People who have pneumonia may take longer to recover (days to weeks). In cases of severe, life-threatening illness, it may take months for a person to recover, or the person may die.
Can people who are asymptomatic spread coronavirus?
A person who is asymptomatic may be shedding the virus and could make others ill. How often asymptomatic transmission is occurring is unclear.
Can the coronavirus live on soft surfaces like fabric or carpet? What about hard surfaces?
How long the new coronavirus can live on a soft surface — and more importantly, how easy or hard it is to spread this way — isn’t clear yet. So far, available evidence suggests it can be transmitted less easily from soft surfaces than frequently-touched hard surfaces, such as a doorknob or elevator button.
According to the WHO, coronaviruses may survive on surfaces for just a few hours or several days, although many factors will influence this, including surface material and weather.
That’s why personal preventive steps like frequently washing hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and wiping down often-touched surfaces with disinfectants or a household cleaning spray, are a good idea.
Should I wear a face mask to protect against coronavirus? Should my children?
Follow public health recommendations where you live. Currently, face masks are not recommended for the general public in the US. The risk of catching the virus in the US is low overall, but will depend on community transmission, which is higher in some regions than in others. Even though there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US, most people are more likely to catch and spread influenza (the flu). (So far this season, there have been nearly 30 million cases of flu and 17,000 deaths.)
Some health facilities require people to wear a mask under certain circumstances, such as if they have traveled from areas where coronavirus is spreading, or have been in contact with people who did or with people who have confirmed coronavirus.
If you have respiratory symptoms like coughing or sneezing, experts recommend wearing a mask to protect others. This may help contain droplets containing any type of virus, including the flu, and protect close contacts (anyone within three to six feet of the infected person).
Should someone who is immunocompromised wear a mask?
If you are immunocompromised because of an illness or treatment, talk to your doctor about whether wearing a mask is helpful for you in some situations. Advice could vary depending on your medical history and where you live. Many people will not need to wear a mask, but if your healthcare provider recommends wearing one in public areas because you have a particularly vulnerable immune system or for other reasons, follow that advice.
Should I accept packages from China?
There is no reason to suspect that packages from China harbor COVID-19. Remember, this is a respiratory virus similar to the flu. We don’t stop receiving packages from China during their flu season. We should follow that same logic for this novel pathogen.
Can I catch the coronavirus by eating food prepared by others?
We are still learning about transmission of COVID-19. It’s not clear if this is possible, but if so it would be more likely to be the exception than the rule. That said, COVID-19 and other coronaviruses have been detected in the stool of certain patients, so we currently cannot rule out the possibility of occasional transmission from infected food handlers. The virus would likely be killed by cooking the food.
Should I travel on a plane with my children?
Keep abreast of travel advisories from regulatory agencies and understand that this is a rapidly changing situation. The CDC has several levels of travel restrictions depending on risk in various countries and communities.
Of course, if anyone has a fever and respiratory symptoms, that person should not fly if at all possible. Anyone who has a fever and respiratory symptoms and flies anyway should wear a mask on an airplane.
Is there a vaccine available for coronavirus?
No vaccine is available, although scientists are working on vaccines. In 2003, scientists tried to develop a vaccine to prevent SARS but the epidemic ended before the vaccine could enter clinical trials.
Is there a treatment available for coronavirus?
Currently there is no specific antiviral treatment for this new coronavirus. Treatment is therefore supportive, which means giving fluids, medicine to reduce fever, and, in severe cases, supplemental oxygen. People who become critically ill from COVID-19 may need a respirator to help them breathe. Bacterial infection can complicate this viral infection. Patients may require antibiotics in cases of bacterial pneumonia as well as COVID-19.
Antiviral treatments used for HIV and other compounds are being investigated.
There’s no evidence that supplements, such as vitamin C, or probiotics will help speed recovery.
How is this new coronavirus confirmed?
A specialized test must be done to confirm that a person has COVID-19. Most testing in the United States has been performed at the CDC. However, testing will become more available throughout the country in the coming weeks.
How deadly is this coronavirus?
We don’t yet know. However, signs suggest that many people may have had mild cases of the virus and recovered without special treatment.
The original information from China likely overestimated the risk of death from the virus. Right now it appears that the risk of very serious illness and death is less than it was for SARS and MERS. In terms of total deaths in the United States, influenza overwhelmingly causes more deaths today than COVID-19.
What should people do if they think they have coronavirus or their child does? Go to an urgent care clinic? Go to the ER?
If you have a health care provider or pediatrician, call them first for advice. In most parts of the US, it’s far more likely to be the flu or another viral illness.
If you do not have a doctor and you are concerned that you or your child may have coronavirus, contact your local board of health. They can direct you to the best place for evaluation and treatment in your area.
Only people with symptoms of severe respiratory illness should seek medical care in the ER. Severe symptoms are rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, high or very low temperatures, confusion, trouble breathing, severe dehydration. Call ahead to tell the ER that you are coming so they can be prepared for your arrival.
Can people who recover from the coronavirus still be carriers and therefore spread it?
People who get COVID-19 need to work with providers and public health authorities to determine when they are no longer contagious.
What Is Coronavirus (COVID-19)? The World Health Organization declared the new #Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak a global health emergency in January 2020. Experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine are closely monitoring the spread of the virus and offering useful information on what the disease is and how to help prevent transmission. For more information, please visit the #JohnsHopkins Medicine coronavirus website. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/coron…
The coronavirus outbreak has been hitting China’s economy hard as many businesses have had to temporarily shut down their operations amid tight quarantine rules. But measures to stop the spread of the illness have also become an unexpected boon for at least one industry: online education.
With the opening of schools pushed back to March and all extracurricular activities suspended, tens of millions of students have been told to go online to study. And the country’s providers of online tutoring services are suddenly experiencing a surge in interest from students and their parents.
The biggest winner appears to be TAL Education’s Zhang Bangxin, who saw his wealth increase by $1.7 billion, giving him a current net worth of at least $10 billion. His New York-listed company rallied 20% last month on expectations of strong growth. The 40-year-old Zhang has catapulted past the likes of JD.com’s founder Richard Liu ($8.7 billion) and Baidu’s Robin Li ($7.1 billion) to reach No. 24 on China’s wealth rankings.
“This is like a natural marketing campaign for these companies,” says Jiao Wei, an analyst at Shanghai-based research firm 86 Research. “Parents who didn’t know much about online education can now see how it works and how classes are being streamed online.”
TAL has partnered with more than 300 public schools across China to stream free classes, and its Xueersi unit is providing complementary K-12 online tutoring sessions. Other education companies are also launching more e-learning courses, while developing data tools to analyze student performance and help teachers track their progress.
Shares of New York-listed New Oriental rose 7.3% last month, adding $190 million to the wealth of its founder Yu Minhong. His current net worth is estimated at $3.4 billion. And Chen Xiangdong, founder of GSX Techedu, also listed in New York, has seen his net worth rise to $4.75 billion, thanks to a 40% rally that added another $1.3 billion to the value of his stake in the same period. The three education billionaires’ combined $3.2 billion gain makes them stand out as rare winners at a time when the coronavirus outbreak has battered industries ranging from hospitality to retail and logistics. As of Thursday, the virus that had infected nearly 80,000 people in China has been estimated to shave $60 billion off China’s economic growth.
Analysts say that education companies are likely to benefit from the increased attention for their services for some time. After both students and parents become more familiar with virtual classrooms, they can be enticed to try other products and pay for services down the road. Terry Weng, a Shenzhen-based analyst at research firm Blue Lotus Research Group, estimates that 22% of Chinese K-12 students will take part in online tutoring by end of this year, up from 17% in 2019. Driven by tough competition for good schools and jobs, as well as technological advances in virtual learning, China’s online education market is expected to more than triple to 696 billion yuan ($99.3 billion) in 2023 from last year’s 203 billion yuan, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan.
But analysts also caution that the current e-learning boom may not translate into higher revenue or profit—at least not in the short term. In a bid to attract more users, many services are being offered for free or at a discount. Blue Lotus’s Weng estimates that when TAL actually charges its virtual classes, they are sold at a 10% to 30% discount compared with lessons for its offline learning centers. The company generated $6.5 million in profits from $2.5 billion in sales during the first nine months of 2019. Before the virus struck, TAL was estimated to derive between 20% and 30% of its revenues from online learning and the remainder came from its offline centers.
Still, investors seem willing to overlook any short-term loss and focus on future gains. Aside from faster user growth for their online services, TAL and New Oriental’s offline businesses may also capture a larger share of the overall education market. This is due to the fact that smaller service providers are running out of cash, and probably won’t stay in business much longer. They still have to pay rent and teachers’ salaries, even when China suspended all types of offline classes and ordered tuition refunds.
“The gradual exit of smaller education firms means there are more opportunities for TAL and New Oriental,” Weng says. “Investors are more keen for their future performance.”
I am a Beijing-based writer covering China’s technology sector. I contribute to Forbes, and previously I freelanced for SCMP and Nikkei. Prior to Beijing, I spent six months as an intern at TIME magazine’s Hong Kong office. I am a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @yueyueyuewang
There are at least 29 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the United States. It’s a small fraction of the number of cases in China, but the fear surrounding the coronavirus outbreak knows no bounds. Many Chinese students in America are on edge, and worry for family members in China. CGTN’s Dan Williams met some students at Northwestern University.
Moderna Therapeutics, a biotech company based in Cambridge, Mass., has shipped the first batches of its COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine was created just 42 days after the genetic sequence of the COVID_19 virus, called SARS-CoV-2, was released by Chinese researchers in mid-January. The first vials were sent to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, which will ready the vaccine for human testing as early as April.
NIH scientists also began testing an antiviral drug called remdesivir that had been developed for Ebola, on a patient infected with SARS-CoV-2. The trial is the first to test a drug for treating COVID-19, and will be led by a team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The first patient to volunteer for the ground-breaking study is a passenger who was brought back to the US after testing positive for the disease aboard the Diamond Princess. Others diagnosed with COVID-19 who have been hospitalized will also be part of the study.
Remdesivir showed encouraging results among animals infected with two related coronaviruses, one responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and another for causing Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Volunteers will be randomly assigned to receive either the drug or a placebo intravenously for 10 days, and they will have blood tests and nose and throat swabs taken every two days to track the amount of virus in their bodies. Even if the drug shows some efficacy in keeping blood levels of SARS-CoV-2 from growing, it could help to contain spread of the infection.
Moderna’s vaccine against COVID-19 was developed in record time because it’s based on a relatively new genetic method that does not require growing huge amounts of virus. Instead, the vaccine is packed with mRNA, the genetic material that comes from DNA and makes proteins. Moderna loads its vaccine with mRNA that codes for the right coronavirus proteins which then get injected into the body. Immune cells in the lymph nodes can process that mRNA and start making the protein in just the right way for other immune cells to recognize and mark them for destruction.
As Dr. Stephen Hoge, president of Moderna, told TIME earlier this month, “mRNA is really like a software molecule in biology. So our vaccine is like the software program to the body, which then goes and makes the [viral] proteins that can generate an immune response.” That means that this vaccine method can be scaled up quickly, saving critical time when a new disease like COVID-19 emerges and starts infecting tens of thousands of people.
Topline: The growing outbreak of the coronavirus in Italy has been linked with new cases of the pneumonia-like virus in three neighboring European countries, and in Brazil, the first time Covid-19 has been detected in Latin America.
The 108-room Grand Hotel Europa in the Austrian ski town of Innsbruck is on lockdown after an Italian couple contracted the virus when they visited Italy’s Lombardy region, which is at the centre of the Italian outbreak. The woman works as a receptionist at the hotel.
In Switzerland, a man in his 70s was placed in isolation after testing positive for the illness in Lugano, the southern, Italian-speaking part of Switzerland. He is believed to have contracted the virus during an event in Milan earlier this month.
Croatia is the first Balkan country to report a case, after a man who recently travelled from Milan showed milder symptoms of the illness, the country’s health minister said.
European stocks slid further on Wednesday, with the continent’s Stoxx 600 down 2% on Wednesday morning. Germany’s Dax 30, France’s CAC 40 and London’s FTSE 100 are also down.
Coronavirus has now jumped to Latin America and Africa with two people who recently travelled from Italy to Brazil and Algeria testing positive for the coronavirus.
The U.S. military has also reported its first case, a 23-year-old man based in South Korea who had recently travelled to a military camp in Daegu, the Korean city at the centre of the country’s outbreak. The U.S has around 28,500 troops garrisoned in South Korea and the risk level remains high, the New York Times reports.
Crucial comment: Oliver Baete, CEO of Europe biggest insurer Allianz, has said the markets overreacting to coronavirus is unwarranted. “It’s not like the world will end tomorrow,” he told Bloomberg.
Elsewhere around the world: Spain – 1,000 guests at a hotel in Spain’s canary islands has been on lockdown since Monday, with four people now testing positive for the virus, while the first case on the Spanish mainland was confirmed in Catalonia earlier this week.
Italy – At least 325 cases and 11 deaths have been recorded, while northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto remain on lockdown and new cases have now been reported in Rome. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said: “We need to stop the panic.”
South Korea – More than 900 cases have now been reported in the largest cluster of cases outside mainland China, with more than half of cases linked to a Christian church sect.
China – Some 78,000 people have been infected and 2,700 people have died in the country at the centre of the outbreak.
U.K. – Thirteen people have tested positive for the virus, some of which were aboard the Diamond Princess.
France – Fourteen people are infected, while one has died and 11 have recovered.
Additional fact: Hong Kong has handed $1,280 to every adult permanent resident in a bid to stimulate its flagging economy which has been weighed down by months of protests, and the coronavirus.
Key background:The coronavirus crisis has now entered a new global phase after attempts to contain the outbreak in China failed despite unprecedented quarantine measures and travel restrictions that severely impacted the world’s second largest economy. More than 80,000 people worldwide, mostly in China, have been infected with the pneumonia-like virus and businesses around the world are taking stock of the prospect of further disruption in major economies like Italy and South Korea, or a global pandemic. Airlines, travel and luxury stocks have been some of the most impacted by this week’s sell-off as investors pivot to safe-haven assets. Scientists are scrambling to find a vaccine, with the the World Health Organization coordinating the efforts. The illness has also impacted Japan’s corporate culture, with thousands of employees being asked to work from home there.
Tangent: Some 300 workers at the Chevron offices in London’s Canary Wharf financial district were told to work from home after a worker presented with flu-like symptoms and is being tested for coronavirus.
I am a breaking news reporter for Forbes in London, covering Europe and the U.S. Previously I was a news reporter for HuffPost UK, the Press Association and a night reporter at the Guardian. I studied Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics, where I was a writer and editor for one of the university’s global affairs magazines, the London Globalist. That led me to Goldsmiths, University of London, where I completed my M.A. in Journalism. Got a story? Get in touch at email@example.com, or follow me on Twitter @bissieness. I look forward to hearing from you.