International Asia COVID-19: Some questions still do not have clear answers

COVID-19: Some questions still do not have clear answers

Masks and thermometers are still not available in the shops

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Singapore — With the ongoing worries about the spread of COVID-19, there are questions about the outbreak that still do not have clear answers. Here are a  few of them:

When will more masks be available?

After retailers ran out of face masks, the Government released four masks per household. Although these may not be enough for larger families or daily usage, it has stressed that the masks are for use by those who feel unwell and need to make a trip to the doctor. Further need for more masks would then be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, according to Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing. The Government also stated that the global shortage of these masks had led it to work with retailers to find other sources and suppliers and to bring forward shipments of masks and other in-demand goods.

When will thermometers be available?

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Along with masks and hand sanitizers, thermometers have been flying off the shelves as well. Oral thermometers on NTUC FairPrice and Watsons online stores are also sold out. They were, however, available at Guardian’s online store on Friday (Feb 14).

How long should one wear a mask?

The official advice is that a surgical mask should only be worn when one feels unwell or has a cough or runny nose. This is to prevent others from getting infected. Many Singaporeans have, however, been wearing masks as a precautionary measure. The authorities have also spoken out against the hoarding of masks because this deprives others who may need them. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that a mask reaches its max efficiency when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning. The mask should be for single use. It should be changed eight hours into usage or when damp or soiled.

How can COVID-19 be transmitted?

The WHO states that in other similar viruses like Mers and Sars, human-to-human transmission occurs via droplets, contact and fomites, leading it to believe the same for COVID-19. Although it is said that when the air is humid and warm these droplets from infected parties fall to the ground quicker, lowering the risk of transmission, the claim that this virus can spread through the air has not been proven. An infectious disease specialist, Dr Leong Hoe Nam, has stated that the spread occurs through respiratory droplets that appear through saliva or when we cough or sneeze and that it is not in the air. He advocates practising good hygiene and washing hands after touching common objects like money.

What is the latest on the incubation period?

The WHO has also opted not to change the incubation period after some Chinese scientists stated that the incubation period for some stretches across 24 days. The WHO linked the longer incubation period to an outlier observation and double exposures. It has chosen to stick with the 14-day incubation period guideline.

China has also widened the net for the virus. On Thursday (Feb 13), it announced that it had moved to include results from Computerised Tomography (CT) scans that clinically diagnose these infections. This has led to a massive 14,840 increase in cases. In WHO’s Feb 13 Situation Report, it has only included the laboratory confirmed cases.

Should any kind of food be avoided?

The WHO advises that the consumption of raw or undercooked animal products is to be avoided. Care should also be afforded when handling raw food to avoid cross-contamination. One concern people have had is whether they can eat at hotpot restaurants. There are doctors who state that it is not the food but the close contact among the diners, while others state that the heat from the hotpot could enable the virus to travel further and be inhaled. /TISG

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