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2020 started off to a crumbling start. To think we haven't closed up on the 1st quarter and the world has flipped all its priorities since the outbreak of the COVID-19, coronavirus disease which originated from Wuhan, China in December 2019. Early news reported the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which sells fish, as well as a panoply of meat from other animals, including bats, snakes and pangolins, was implicated in the spread.
While the world was busy ushering in the Lunar New Year of the Rat, the pneumonia like virus made its attack. As the festivities took place, the world let its guard down on the flu like illness with symptoms that disguised behind coughs, fever and breathing difficulties.

The virus did not even have a proper name until 11 February, when the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it officially as “COVID-19”. It felt like for the longest time we were calling it the Wuhan Coronavirus. 1.5 months after WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern (on 30 January), COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic on 12 March. This is the first pandemic or a worldwide outbreak of a new disease, caused by a coronavirus. The pandemic is 3.4% based on the number of deaths in comparison to the number of cases.

As soon as COVID-19 was declared pandemic, US announced a ban on all foreign travel to the United States from most of Europe for the next 30 days. President Rodrigo Duterte declares lock down of capital, Manila in the Philippines and India suspends tourist visas. Mosques in Singapore suspends Friday prayers for the 1st time while Reverend William Goh, Archbishop of Singapore, retracted the announcement to reinstate Catholic masses on the weekend following suspension of all Masses indefinitely since 14 February.

This followed the string of both international and local events covering headline news daily. Starting from the announcement of ‘Disease Outbreak Response System Condition’ (DORSCON) Orange, meaning the disease was severe and spread easily, but still contained in Singapore on 6 February. Wuhan, China was brought to a desperate state wide lock down on 7 February as confirmed cases and deaths sky rocketed around the Hubei province. A month later, escalated cases spike in the southern city of Daegu and the North Gyeongsang province of South Korea. On 8 March, Italy, with the highest number of cases and fatalities in Europe was locked down. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a "national emergency" and imposed quarantines on the Lombardy and Veneto regions. Overnight, busy Italian streets of Milan and Venice became empty. The stock markets plummeted overnight to a sea of red.

We are living the new normal today.

Of uncertainties, of new remote ways of communication and interaction, of travel halts, of more awareness to hygiene and personal care. You read, you hear and you see the impact on businesses, on the lives of family and friends as they brave their health, loss of business revenue, a pay cut, mandatory no pay leave. While we all ride out this wave, let's not forget to be kind, grateful and always hopeful. My heart goes out to all the families affected by this virus directly or indirectly. Keep praying and keep the immunity strong!

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