by Abaigeal Lorge and Zuzanna Kaczmarek
With the coronavirus outbreak rapidly evolving, questions and rumours surrounding the global alarm are spreading.
The novel coronavirus, announced by the Chinese government in late December 2019, is described as a respiratory virus by the World Health Organization. It originally emerged from food markets in Wuhan, China, leaping from animals to humans. According to the WHO, the coronavirus is highly contagious, spreading through contact with an infected person who releases droplets into the atmosphere when, for instance, sneezing or coughing.
According to China’s National Health Commission, as of February 12, there have been 1,526 deaths, 67,099 confirmed cases, and 8,096 recovered patients.
Hundreds lined up for masks in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong (photo by Mariana Gamez)
This global alert has affected not only the lives of those infected, but also those of students.
According to Penelope Lee, a high school student attending Hong Kong International School, “School is closed –the Education Bureau of Hong Kong has made a decision to close all public and private schools until March 4th.” International students living in Asia are now taking their classes online, with a ‘Zoom call’ provided to them by the teachers.
According to another student living in Hong Kong, Mariana Gamez, “Students connect online following their normal schedule of classes, sometimes starting at 8:30 or at 10:30.” They may contact teachers through Google Hangouts, email, or Skype calls. These students feel they are not missing any content from classes including history or biology.
Students have also, however, found this change challenging because, as stated by Penelope, “you have to be the one taking initiative.” She believes her productivity and efficiency has declined as a result. Moreover, hands-on classes, including the sciences as well as math and art, have become difficult to keep up with.
Also, day-to-day lives have been affected. According to Mariana Gamez, she used to go out to grab dinner, or go on walks around the city. However, “now, being in crowded places is quite risky so I try to limit that by going to friends’ houses or going to less crowded places.” She finds that public transportation has become restricted, and if you are to take a bus or a train “there is almost no one, everyone is wearing masks, everyone is carrying hand sanitizer.” At the supermarket supplies are limited: “shelves with toilet paper, disinfectants, masks and hand sanitizers are all empty.”
International communities are at risk, as people are travelling globally, and our school, the American School of Warsaw, has taken consideration of this. The director, Mr. Zurfluh has sent out a couple emails in which he stated that “we are monitoring updates on the recent emergence of the Novel Coronavirus. We are very much aware that our international community means we have individuals who have likely traveled through these regions during the vacation.” In a follow up email the director reassured the community that the school is “aware of the WHO situation report released this morning and the declaration of a public health emergency. Currently the school is discussing decisions about whether to increase the risk level and implement further actions.”