COVID-19: Updates So Far & The Roles of Pharmacists in A Disease Outbreak

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By Lee Lee Woon

MPS-YPC associate and Registered Pharmacist in the government sector. Loves writing, chicken rice, and lame jokes (in no particular order).

Since our last article on COVID-19, so much has changed-the number of reported cases, better understanding of the virus’ characteristics, and its rebranding to COVID-19. After a harrowing month into the new decade, there’s finally some good news in 2020!

This article will cover the rationale behind rebranding, latest statistics, and the roles of pharmacists in outbreaks.


The Need for Rebranding

The virus was known by many names: Wuhan coronavirus, Wuhan flu, 2019-nCoV, coronavirus, and coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Unfortunately, some of the names have, to a certain extent, contributed to instances of unnecessary panic, racism, and xenophobia.

There are many accounts of Asian discrimination, resulting in a Wikipedia compilation (sadly) titled, “Xenophobia and racism related to the 2019–20 Wuhan coronavirus outbreak”.

In a statement released by WHO Director General on 11th February 2020,

“…we had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease.

Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing. It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks.”

COVID-19 stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019 and is the designated name for the current outbreak. With this new naming convention, we are rest assured of the systematic naming of future outbreaks and by extension, more resources channelled to solutions instead of handling public fear.



Latest Statistics

Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia (KKM) released an infographic of the latest statistics abroad and locally, as of 5pm, 18th February 2020.

Source: KKM’s Twitter handle (@KKMPutrajaya)


The majority of cases are still confined in China, with 3 deaths outside of China.

Malaysia recorded a total of 22 cases with 0 deaths.

According to the infographic below, there are 11 cases of recovered and discharged patients (as of 18th February 2020).


Source: KKM’s Twitter handle (@KKMPutrajaya)


Roles of Pharmacists

Besides being the provider of masks and hand sanitizers, pharmacists are important public health front liners together with other healthcare professionals.

In light of the outbreak, International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) released an interim guideline titled “CORONAVIRUS SARS-CoV-2 OUTBREAK: Information and interim guidelines for pharmacists and the pharmacy workforce“.

Source: FIP CORONAVIRUS SARS-CoV-2 OUTBREAK: Information and interim guidelines for pharmacists and the pharmacy workforce.

Among the main roles of community pharmacists include:

  • Providing reliable health information
  • Dispelling fake news
  • Raising health and preventive awareness
  • Early detection of possible cases based on symptoms and travel history
  • Referring to other healthcare institutions where deemed necessary


As for pharmacists in various other sectors, sharing latest news from reliable sources as well as providing advice on appropriate preventive measures can be helpful to the people around us. #SayNoToFakeNews

Source: FIP CORONAVIRUS SARS-CoV-2 OUTBREAK: Information and interim guidelines for pharmacists and the pharmacy workforce,