Dr. Christopher Tay addresses common questions about COVID-19

Dr. Christopher Tay Honored with the “Top 100 Healthcare Leaders” Award at IFAH Dubai, 2019.

In an exclusive interview with Khmer Times, Dr. Christopher Tay, CEO of The Prestige Hospital and a pandemic expert, answers frequently asked questions about COVID-19, which has sparked fear among the Cambodian people.

KT: While working as the COO of Tan Tock Seng Hospital, you were on the frontlines during the SARS breakout in 2003. Can you compare SARS with COVID-19?

Dr Tay: Both SARS and COVID-19 are caused by the same family of viruses – the coronavirus – but they have different virus strains and do not behave in the same way. With SARS, we were able to see the symptoms of the disease within a 14-day incubation period and monitor how it spread. With COVID-19, however, even asymptomatic individuals who did not exhibit elevated temperatures, shortness of breath or coughing were able to spread the virus. Although COVID-19 is not airborne, close proximity with patients can increase the chances of infection, especially through droplets from coughs. Despite these, we are now better prepared due to our experiences in dealing with SARS, MERS and other infectious diseases. COVID-19 also has a much lower fatality rate compared to SARS.

KT: There is no cure for COVID-19 at the moment. How could the infected recover?

Dr Tay: For SARS, when a patient’s lung tissues are damaged or scarred, the patient will collapse. COVID-19, on the other hand, is different. People diagnosed with the disease can recover if given the right care and support at the right time. Patients who find it hard to breathe can survive if we give them enough oxygen. This is crucial. But why are there so many deaths from COVID-19? Because the healthcare system cannot support the significant number of infected people. With limited hospital facilities, it is difficult to treat thousands of patients all at the same time. In most cases, COVID-19 patients can recover with treatment. It’s different, however, for patients with underlying health conditions like diabetes or respiratory diseases. Recovery for these patients could be more difficult.

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