The Rise Of The COronavirus
Updated: Apr 24
The new coronavirus, known as COVID-19 is the seventh coronavirus known to affect humans. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), (at the time of writing) there have been 79,163 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 2,471 deaths, primarily in mainland China.
In Singapore, there were more than 80 confirmed cases as of 20 Feb.
To understand coronaviruses a bit more, they are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases like Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) which infected 238 people in Singapore in 2003, 33 of whom died. Although these viruses mostly circulate in animals, they can sometimes mutate affect humans, like with COVID-19.
1) Preventive vs Reactive
Nobody anticipated the coronavirus’ spread among humans.
Nobody could have seen the epidemic coming, especially during the Lunar New Year, which is usually a time of celebration.
Sometimes it feels like we’re waking up to a nightmare because it happened so quickly and suddenly that it all seems so surreal.
However, the spread of COVID-19 is a reality.
As the situation got progressively worse, the DORSCON code was changed to orange, which sees more enhanced necessary preventive measures put in place to prevent and manage the epidemic. This DORSCON system was implemented after SARS in 2003 to keep us prepared for similar emergencies such as this one.
Besides raising the DORSCON level to orange, the Singaporean government has also announced a number of control measures since reporting its first coronavirus case in the country.
Air borders closed with Mainland China – strict measures at airports
To control community spread, passengers from Mainland China have been disallowed to fly into Singapore. All inbound flights from Wuhan have been ceased and travel advisory has been issued to Singaporeans to avoid non-essential travel to Mainland China and defer travel plans to Hubei province. Thermal screening is implemented at checkpoints – land, air and sea. Fresh as well as issued visas of Chinese passport holders have been suspended.
Mandatory leave of absence (LOA) for Singaporeans
A 14-day paid leave-of-absence (LOA) is placed on Singapore citizens returning from China, starting from the day they arrive. Employees are required to grant the LOA over and above the annual leave entitlement.
PRs and long-term pass holders returning from China, visitors of all other nationalities with a travel history to Mainland China in the preceding 14 days are denied not only to enter Singapore but also to transit through the country.
People with a recent travel history to Hubei are quarantined. The government has warned that severe penalties will be imposed if the quarantine orders are not complied with.
Advisories issued by the Ministry of Health
The Ministry of Health (MOH), Singapore has issued advisories for different sectors. Staff working in the healthcare sector are advised to avoid contact with live animals including poultry and birds and avoid consumption of raw and under-cooked meats.
A specific advisory has also been rolled out to schools across the country to adopt measures such as suspending school assemblies and staggering recesses.
Large-scale business events advised to be postponed
Businesses have been advised to defer large-scale events, defined as those with more than 1,000 attendees. Small scale events are recommended to still be continued with temperature-screening in place and avoiding participants with recent travel history to China or those under LOA.
On personal side, these are some of the precautions we should follow at all times:
Avoid contact with live animals including poultry and birds, and consumption of raw and under-cooked meats;
Avoid close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness;
Observe good personal hygiene;
Practice frequent hand washing with soap (e.g. before handling food or eating, after going to toilet, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing);
Wear a mask if you have respiratory symptoms such as a cough or runny nose;
Cover your mouth with a tissue paper when coughing or sneezing, and dispose the soiled tissue paper in the rubbish bin immediately; and
Seek medical attention promptly if you are feeling unwell.
Prevention is better than cure.
When unforeseen circumstances hit us, are we adequately prepared?
Do we have the safety nets in place?
2) The good, the bad, and the ugly
In light of this epidemic, different sides of those living in Singapore have emerged.
There are those who think about others and offer help or solutions in emergencies. This couple, for example, bought masks back from Vietnam when they heard of the mask shortage situation in Singapore and distributed them for free at an MRT station. There were also residents in Punggol who kindly placed hand sanitizers and masks in the lift.
Many organizations have also come forward during this time to help those affected by the coronavirus outbreaking by donating medical supplies and cash. They’ve also shown support for frontline healthcare workers.
The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) and Singapore Press Holdings’ (SPH) Chinese Media Group (CMG) had raised $1.1 million and $188,000 respectively to help communities in China hit by the outbreak. These donations were made to the Singapore Red Cross.
SCCCI collected its donations from council members. Its members also contributed items to healthcare workers in Singapore, with the Singapore Metal and Machinery Association donating 3,800 sets of personal protective equipment, and Tat Hong Group contributing 10,000 surgical masks.
People have also penned notes of appreciation for our hardworking and selfless healthcare staff amid the outbreak.
People across the island have been writing to those medical professionals notes of encouragement as part of a movement known as #braveheartsg to show their appreciation.
One type of people that the situation has revealed is the type that has a deep distrust for the Government. They think the Government must be lying, even if what is being said are scientific facts.
There are others who trust only the Government, to the point of only believing advisories from it.
These are the kind of people that will not evacuate a burning building until some authority tells them to do so.
Another type are those who think that they are smarter than WHO and the medical experts, and think that all the governments in the world are overreacting.
Then there’s the type that uses it as an opportunity for bad marketing.
Some businesses saw this as an opportunity to drastically increase their prices and profit from the situation - a shop in Yishun sold 20 masks for $138 while another sold each mask for $1.30 per piece.
House of Seafood restaurant in Punggol made an exclusive offer to those who dined in the restaurant: The chance to purchase surgical face masks.
There was also the spread of fake news which increased panic and caused much confusion among us. There was also the rumour of raising the DORSCON level to Red.
Fighting the virus is challenging enough. Fighting the bad behaviors can and should be avoided.
The ugly sides of some people were also revealed when they started complaining endlessly that the government was incompetent and stingy for being only able to give out 4 masks to each family, failing to see the amount of manpower and labor it actually takes to distribute the masks to so many Singaporean families.
There was also discrimination against healthcare workers and racism towards Chinese nationals.
Taxi drivers were reluctant to pick up staff in medical uniform. A healthcare professional’s private-hire vehicle was cancelled because she was going to a hospital.
A nurse in a lift was asked why she was not taking the stairs and that she was spreading the virus to others by taking the lift.
A nurse was being scolded for making the MRT train ‘dirty’ and spreading the virus. An ambulance driver was turned away by food stall workers.
All these are some examples of ugly behaviors, disgraceful conduct, and discriminatory actions.
It is always easy to point our fingers and look for something else to blame during bad times. However, these negative mindsets and attitudes only serve to worsen our social cohesion which is actually a necessary factor to survive an epidemic like this.
3) Fear vs Faith
The nationwide phenomenon of panic buying reflects how much fear has gripped most of us.
It can cause even more harm to us by disrupting our daily lives and causing us to act irrationally.
People are fearful of what they do not understand.
While it is true that the virus is deadly and we should be extra careful during this period, fear can actually cripple us more than the virus would.
It can cause even more harm to us by disrupting our daily lives and causing us to act irrationally.
Irrational Fear can be False Evidence Appearing Real.
In times like these, all the more we should Face Everything And Rise and keep having a faith attitude.
Faith in the Government
Faith in the Healthcare System
Faith in Ourselves
Together we can fight the virus.
4) Right tools vs Right usage
Masks can prevent the spread of the virus and could also protect us from catching it.
However, wearing a mask would be no use if we do not take note to use them correctly.
There was a Hong Kong leader in particular who had worn a face mask wrongly at a press conference and was pointed out by netizens.
Some people have been spotted cloth masks or sponge masks, which do not keep the virus particles out.
These are all incorrect ways of using the mask and would not protect you from the virus.
Similarly, we have the resources in our lives to make the best of.
People already have all the resources they need. There are no unresourceful people, only unresourceful states.
However, these resources are just being wasted if we do not use them properly.
What are the resources that you have?
What are the resources that you need?
How can you get them and make use of them?
5) Know Thyself, Know Thy Enemy
There was a saying in Chinese:
In English, it literally translates to: know yourself, know your enemies, fight a hundred battles, win a hundred battles.
Know Thy Enemy (Aka The Virus)
If we know how the virus is being spread, then the chances are high that we would be able to properly protect ourselves.
We know that coronaviruses like COVID-19 are part of a zoonotic family of viruses that include SARS and MERS. They originate in animals and cause mild to severe respiratory symptoms when transmitted to humans. These viruses are spread via respiratory droplets between people in close contact with each other—typically defined as a distance of around 6 feet (1.8 metres). The highest chance of infection occurs when an infected person sneezes or coughs, as the expelled droplets become airborne and can enter another person's respiratory system through the mouth or nose. Coronavirus pathogens may also remain infectious on surfaces for a small amount of time, although it is still unknown how long the COVID-19 virus can live without its host.
Since coronaviruses are spread person to person and are similar to typical respiratory illnesses like the flu or common cold, the best action would be to avoid contact with people exhibiting symptoms. However, since that is hardly realistic in a densely populated city, the next best thing is to wash your hands often, avoid touching your face and sanitise your home and work area (including your phone).
Know Thyself (Aka Our Coverage)
Sometimes you can do everything right and still get sick. Because of this, it is important to have a good insurance plan that can cover you if you need to get treatment.
Some questions you can ask yourself:
Does my insurance payout in the event of coronavirus?
How much is my coverage?
When is the last time I have done my review?
Speak to me now to get the most updated information.
6) Economy Outlook and Global Impact
China is often called the world’s factory as manufactures many products such as the iPhone and also drives demand for commodities like oil copper. There are also millions of wealthy consumers who are willing to spend large amounts of money on cars, luxury products and tourism. The chinese economy accounted for about 4% of world GDP in 2003; while it makes up 16% of global output now, making China an indispensable part of global business since the 2003 SARS outbreak.
The outbreak has the potential to cause severe economic and market dislocation. But the scale of the impact will ultimately be determined by how the virus spreads and evolves, which is almost impossible to predict, as well as how governments respond.
The virus is snarling supply chains and disrupting companies.
Singapore's economy is likely to be amongst the worst-hit by the coronavirus.
The transport industry is at risk given Singapore’s status as the regional air transport hub. The country topped OAG’s connectivity index in Asia, with Changi Airport handling 66 million passengers in 2018, compared to only 29 million in 2003.
Furthermore, Singapore welcomed more than 3.35 million mainland Chinese visitors from January to November 2019, almost equal to the 3.4 million visitors recorded for the whole year of 2018, data from the Singapore Tourism Board revealed.
Both retail sales and F&B services are expected to fall.
Some tour agents and F&B businesses have been very badly hit because 80 to 90 per cent of their business comes from the Chinese market,
At least two retailers in Singapore have announced shorter business hours or temporary store closures in light of the novel coronavirus outbreak, including mega department stores like OG, BHG, and Takashimaya.
With more people staying in rather than going out, retail has taken a huge blow. Even the once packed Jewel Changi has become a ghost town. And shopping malls are having trouble drawing crowds, despite their convenient locations and wide range of shops.
We must be mentally prepared, psychologically prepared for the impact of this epidemic.
It is possible that recession is on the way.
Do you have the following?
Business Continuity Plan
Emergency Contingency Plan
Diversification of assets and resources
7) Opportunities in Crisis
The Chinese word for ‘crisis’ is 危机
It consists of two characters meaning ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’.
Nothing lasts forever. While the coronavirus has begun to spread locally, it will burn out in time, like severe acute respiratory syndrome did.
No winter lasts forever and fortune favors the brave.
Amid the global outbreak of the COVID-19, there have been media reports of numerous retailers looking to profit from the coronavirus by increasing prices of facial masks.
A quick and dirty way of making money out of this virus outbreak is obviously to stock up healthcare supplies like masks and hand sanitizers and then sell them for a handsome profit through online platforms.
It may not be up to us to make moral judgement on whether the actions of these retailers are ethical. After all, many of them are businessmen and not charity bodies.
But we can ask ourselves what opportunities we can look into in a responsible, safe and ethical manner.
Internet companies, specifically e-commerce websites, can stand to gain from people staying indoors and doing their shopping online. Delivery services are on the demand as well.
One of the strategies for investors is to buy into healthcare supplier stocks. Demand for their products is likely to soar for the next six months as the battle against the virus intensifies. Another strategy is adopting a value-buy strategy and buying into stocks which has been temporarily affected by the virus.
Warren Buffett has a saying about the stock market and investing in general: “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” Time and again, the value investor has used this philosophy to pounce on opportunities.
Opportunity is given to the prepared.
When we have the resources, we can tap on the current downtrend. And we will be preparing ourselves well for the next decade of opportunity.
Are you ready to take advantage of the opportunity?
Keep calm and carry on.
Until this episode blows over, stay healthy and take necessary precautionary measures. Make the most of the opportunities.
In crisis, we stand united. And we will go through this together.
More information about COVID-19: