Insights into COVID-19’s propagation and progression

Prof Tambyah (top right) and Prof Fisher (bottom right) shared their expertise and insights on the past, present, and future situation of COVID-19 in Singapore as well as the outlook for the rest of the world.

The ‘COVID-19: Updates from Singapore' weekly webinar series by the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine), the National University Health System, and the World Health Organization’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network began on 9 April with Professor Paul Tambyah from NUS Medicine as the guest lecturer.

The webinar, hosted by NUS Medicine Professor Dale Fisher, Chair of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN), and Dr David Allen, a Visiting Senior Fellow at NUS Medicine, drew an audience of more than 1,300 participants from around the world.

After an introduction from Prof Fisher and Dr Allen, Prof Tambyah gave a detailed summary of how the disease initially propagated and progressed in Singapore. He also gave his insights into the current best practices for treating the disease and for the prevention of infection.

“Currently everyone is talking about finding a vaccine, but in reality, I think that a vaccine is too far away. So, understanding how to prevent an infectious disease like COVID-19, without the vaccine, ultimately begins with epidemiology,” he explained.

Prof Tambyah also highlighted how the recently-implemented COVID-19 circuit breaker measures in Singapore could be effective at combatting the disease. “We hope that these measures will break the epidemic. There is a lot of talk about how social distancing can help flatten the curve, but I think we should aim to crush the curve,” he said. 

“This will take a combined effort from everyone. In reality, what this epidemic is highlighting is the marginalised communities all over the world, not just Singapore, who are more at risk from the disease. However, with infectious diseases, no one is truly safe, until everyone is safe,” he explained.

After Prof Tambyah’s talk there was an opportunity for audience members to ask questions remotely via the webinar’s Q&A function. One such question queried what the best strategies are for combating COVID-19 in developing countries with limited resources. 

Prof Tambyah responded, “I think the key is accurate clinical diagnosis. As many low- and middle-income countries have limited resources available, I think this could be an opportunity for the world to step in to help.”

Finally, Prof Fisher reviewed the key takeaways from the webinar and discussed some additional talking points. He ran a poll to gauge the audience members’ opinions whether they believe wearing masks is effective at preventing the spread of the disease. The results of the poll showed that the majority of audience members believed that wearing masks in public places decreased the transmission rate, and therefore wearing masks should be strongly encouraged or mandated.

Webinars run on a weekly basis until 7 May. Sign up here.

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