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Robert WalkerRSS Feed of this column.

I'm Robert Walker, inventor & programmer. I have had a long term special interest in astronomy, and space science since the 1970s, and most of these blog posts currently are about Mars and space... Read More »


Singapore is controlling its outbreak with case finding and contact tracing. Any other country can do the same. Singapore is a particularly clear case. They test everyone for COVID-19 if they go to a doctor or clinic for treatment with symptoms of a respiratory disease. For instance if you are living in Singapore, and get a cough or fever, and go to see your doctor - he or she will take a swab which is automatically tested for COVID-19. That's in a country of over 5 million, as large as Scotland.

skip to: Contact tracing in Singapore

Everyone in the UK - please share this widely, this and other posts that explain what is happening in the UK. We are no longer trying to contain COVID-19 in the UK, only to slow down its spread. Also, we no longer try to keep track of who in our society has the virus, as people with mild symptoms are not tested to see if they have COVID-19. This would be good advice for influenza which is a very different disease. Sadly the Netherlands have also joined us in declaring a similar policy.

Summary (of WHO press briefing on 16th March): We must test every suspected case for COVID-19. We must immediately isolate all cases, even the mild ones. Isolation needs to continue through to 14 days after the symptoms cease to make sure the patients are no longer infectious. The mild cases are best treated in hospitals but when there aren’t the beds for them, they can be treated in stadiums, or gyms, or treated at home. If they are isolated at home, the caregivers must know how to protect themselves or they risk infecting others in the same household.

I often get asked - “How long is this COVID19 pandemic going to last?”. The answer, according to the WHO, is that it is up to us. We can stop this. The only question is whether we will. Most countries in the world are acting vigorously to stop it with rigorous case finding, contact tracing and isolation. But the UK and, sadly, Netherlands have decided to follow another direction.

This can only be stopped if all countries are in it together, and for just one country to depart from this strategy means the virus will continue in that country and reinfect the rest of the world, at least until we have a vaccine, a year to eighteen months from now.

COVID19 can be stopped. China has nearly made it go away completely. China had no new cases even in Hubei yesterday (17th March). It had four cases only on the two previous days - and it's only getting a few cases from other countries.

South Korea has nearly got rid of it, down to less than 100 a day for several days after a peak of over 1000 a day.

China peaked in early February and has been declining ever since.

If you add all cases over the WHO "West Pacific" region of South Korea / Japan / Singapore / Malysia / Indonoesia then it had its peak of cases two weeks ago.

Here is Dr Tedros demonstrating how to wash your hands for COVID-19 protection in the "Safe Hands" challenge

(click to watch on Youtube)

He is challenging others to do the same and upload videos of themselves doing it.