COVID-19 IN APAC: ON-THE-GROUND PERSPECTIVES
Dr Samir Dwivedi, Medical Director
9 April 2020
Current lockdown status: India is in complete lockdown; exceptions include essential services and hospitals. All international and domestic flights are grounded.
Impact on the community: India in a uniquely risky position, with its 1.3 billion population, stretched infrastructure and limited good quality healthcare resources, which are mainly concentrated in the few large cities.
The threat of a devastating community spread of the SARS CoV-2 virus is not beyond imagination. Many people in India live in crowded homes or slums, with substandard hygiene. The lack of education increases the risk.
The lockdown caused the economically underprivileged sections, including those on daily wages, to panic. They started returning home, often hundreds of kilometres, on foot, as all transport was shut.
What is International SOS doing on the ground? With the emergence of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, snew challenges have emerged which were unheard of by our clients. Faced by a rapidly evolving astronomical magnitude of the outbreak, leading to the declaration of pandemic by the WHO, our clients turned toward us for intelligence and advice. We educated the clients with webinars and health talks throughout the journey of the evolving situation, helping them manage their workforce. While we could, we arranged several thousands of surgical masks for their employees. When the country lockdown was announced, we extended support, and are still continuing to do so, with teleconsultations. As a future plan, we are mulling over extending this support to the dependents of our clients in certain locations.
Timur Sabitov, Branch Manager
9 April 2020
Current lockdown status: The regions borders are closed, and internal travel is very limited. All schools are shut and moving to remote education.
Impact on the community: So far there have been no reports of shortages of hospital supplies or beds, etc. Streets and buildings are being disinfected. Most of the workforce are working from home (if possible) except for essential workers. Heavy industry continues with tighter restrictions. Alternating shifts has reduced worker’s income by 50%. Unemployment is expected to continue rising. Many private medical facilities in the country have temporarily closed their operations.
By their nature, Kazakhs are a highly social and family-oriented people, so the restrictions are completely changing their way of life. There is an underlying feeling of stress and concern.
What is International SOS doing on the ground? Our clinics in Kazakhstan remain fully operational. To provide more comfort to our clients during this time, tele-consultations are introduced and widely offered by the clinics.
Dr Rene De Jongh, Regional Medical Director
9 April 2020
Current lockdown status: There is a countrywide lockdown in New Zealand, with everybody restricted to or very nearby their homes or other places of residence, except for essential workers being allowed to commute.
Impact on the community: So far, hospitals are coping because the number of people requiring treatment specifically for coronavirus infections is small both in percentage and numerical terms. Personal protective equipment is worryingly short even for healthcare workers.
Close to 55% of New Zealand's workers are currently without a job and no prospect of getting it back anytime soon.
So unsurprisingly, the national mood is quite sombre, but perhaps by virtue of their relative isolation, New Zealanders are more than usually aware and informed of the difficulties that fellow citizens are facing in other places - not only Spain, Italy, the United States etc., but in Ecuador, India, and Africa.
What is International SOS doing on the ground? We have continued to realistically advise our patients, customers and clients on what is feasible under unprecedented circumstances in New Zealand, Australia and the wider region.
We’re providing patients with optimum solutions for their particular circumstances, even when these are necessarily less than they would like. We have also reassured them that we are here 24/7, despite our own circumstances, to help them with the advice, options and solutions still available despite truly global constraints.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Dr Shane Stockil, Country Medical Director
9 April 2020
Current lockdown status: A State of Emergency was imposed on 24 March for 14 days, but it may well be extended. It would be difficult to implement a lockdown in PNG as some residents do not have access to essential services at home (refrigeration, running water, etc).
Impact on the community: Some of the measures that have been put in place include: closure of schools; all flights and interprovincial travel have been banned; companies are to implement safe workplace practices, and non-essential staff are to work from home.
The hospitals (both private and government facilities) in the country are preparing for the pandemic reaching PNG. There are issues with resources (qualified staff, PPE availability, equipment/ventilators, consumables and bed space in designated COVID-19 treatment facilities). International SOS is maintaining its clinics around the country is also involved in regular meetings with NDoH and WHO.
We expect that there have been large job losses in the large informal sector (market sellers, etc).
What is International SOS doing on the ground? International SOS is currently managing to keep all their remote site clinics operational in PNG for their clients. We are working in conjunction with the National Department of Health (NDoH) and WHO to ensure that all the screening processes, treatment protocols and COVID-19 testing procedures are in alignment with the National regulations and guidelines. We are also supporting any surplus requests from the clients in terms of procurement of extra equipment, medication, consumables (particularly PPEs), laboratory supplies, staffing models, and regularly updating queries around medevac capabilities throughout this challenging period.
Dr Hyunick Kim, Coordinating Doctor
9 April 2020
Current lockdown status: At the end of February, after seeing two days of triple-digit case growth, the Korean CDC raised its infectious disease crisis alert level to red. This was an acknowledgement that the Government needed to mobilise all its resources and a signal to the public that their cooperation was needed to tackle the ensuing threat.
Impact on the community: Fast track approval was given to manufacturers to mass produce testing kits, screening clinics were set up, schools were shut, and people were told to work from home if possible.
The country’s IT prowess was leveraged to track close contacts, disseminate information and innovative solutions such as drive through testing and testing booths proved popular. This all occurred with a near 24-hour public health education on TV and other media regarding mask use, hand hygiene and social distancing.
One month in, it seems Korea has been successful as new COVID-19 numbers continue to decline with a relatively low death rate of 1.64%. A strong sense of public duty and the social stigma if seen not adhering to the new norms have been enough so that measures like lockdowns and travel bans were not required. There was no panic buying. Shops remained open.
However, with the growing concern about a second wave and further import of cases from abroad, people remain anxious. But as people have adjusted their lifestyle to this new normal remarkably well, it may be the economic impact from the pandemic that will have a longer lasting and more widespread effect for those in Korea.
What is International SOS doing on the ground? Our South Korean office has been involved with providing up to date information to governmental, domestic and multinational clients about the COVID-19 situation and medical capabilities both abroad and in Korea. Webinars in Korean have also been conducted which proved popular with local members.