The doctors at WhiteCoat answer everything you’ve been dying to ask about COVID-19

By February 16, 2020Current

TL;DR – What is it? How is it transmitted? Is there a cure? Can an infected person recover naturally from it? Who are most at risk? How to protect myself? Are masks necessary? And more.

If there’s one thing that is scarier than the spread of COVID-19, it has to be how fake news and unverified information has been flying around. Not just on Facebook, it appears to be much worse in Whatsapp chats and Telegram groups.

Heard of the one where you’re supposed to place onion in every room? What about the one where you’re supposed to drink garlic water or something?

I’m a city girl with very city thoughts and I believe more in the sciences of these things, than the “organic” stuff like onions and garlic no offense, but…

But I can understand that the fear of the unknown can be such a scary thing, and since we still do not know everything about this virus and we still have not found a vaccine, people will be worried. But the best way to allay the fear of the unknown is to actually dive right in and learn as much as as we can about it.

If you ask me, I think Singapore is easily one of the safest, if not the safest, places to be in the region right now.

Why? Because the Government is trying very hard to find out how many have been infected by the virus and is tracking down every last contact and contain every cluster possible.

Who else in the world is doing the same, you tell me. No need to go too far, just go to Jakarta, we cannot be confident if the authorities know  what they don’t know.

Singapore has a high record of COVID-19 cases. Are we more dangerous, virus-wise?

I know some people are alarmed by the relatively high number of cases Singapore has in comparison to the others. And I am not trivialising the number of cases in critical condition.

What I am saying is the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, because we are so determined to track down every case and to contain every cluster.

The additional preemptive measures announced on 14 February mean that more facilities, services and support will be made accessible to us, and it is likely that we will see more cases.

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Anyway I’ve reached out to the good doctors at WhiteCoat and they’ve kindly given me the permission to republish their FAQ Guide on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

This release is dated 14 Feb 2020.

February 2020 | FAQ Guide I:
Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What is a Coronavirus / Novel Coronavirus / COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases, such as MERS and SARS. The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) belongs to this family of coronaviruses.

How is it transmitted?

Human-to-human remains the primary method of transmission of the COVID-19. For now, evidence suggests virus spread takes place predominantly via droplets emitted from an infected person over a short distance, such as when the person coughs or sneezes.

Persons risk infection when these droplets come into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth of another person, or directly or indirectly through hands that have come into contact with these droplets. Another possible route of transmission is along the fecal-oral route.

What are symptoms of COVID-19? How do they differ from typical flu symptoms?

Symptoms are similar to that of a common cold / severe respiratory tract infection. Typical symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Unfortunately, they are difficult to distinguish from typical flu symptoms; one would require specific laboratory tests to determine the presence of COVID-19.

Can infected persons recover naturally from COVID-19?

Yes, it is possible to recover naturally following infection, and the majority of patients do indeed recover. But while it is possible to recover from infection, some patients can develop complications such as pneumonia.

Is there a cure?

There is no cure or vaccine at the moment. Supportive treatment is provided based on the patient’s clinical condition instead. That said, experimental antiviral medication is currently being used to treat the COVID-19, and vaccines are currently being developed.

Who are those most at risk?

Most of the people at risk of developing severe COVID-19 complications are those who are elderly, and/or those living with chronic conditions such as diabetes, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and heart disease.

How can I protect myself?

Simple preventive measures to protect yourself from COVID-19:

• Regularly washing your hands and using alcohol-based sanitizers
• Covering your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze
• Avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products such as milk, meat, and eggs
• Avoid close contact with people exhibiting symptoms such as fever, cough, sneezing, and breathing difficulty

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If you present with any of these symptoms, visit your medical provider or telemedicine provider such as WhiteCoat immediately and share your recent travel history with them.

How long does the incubation period last?

The incubation period lasts up to 14 days. Travellers are advised to monitor their health closely for at least 2 weeks if travelling in from a high-risk destination, and to seek medical attention promptly if feeling unwell.

If a patient experiences flu symptoms, what would be a doctor’s next steps via video consultation on WhiteCoat?

WhiteCoat will first establish the clinical history of the condition, travel and contact history, evaluate its severity and make a clinical decision whether the patient can be safely treated and monitored at home taking into account following criteria:

If there is clear travel or contact history, such that the patient’s condition matches the MOH advisory guidelines, WhiteCoat will activate the MOH team who will in turn bring any of such patients for further testing directly from where they are located. This reduces the likelihood of patients spreading the virus to the general public and ensures that the patients receive the care they need.

If a patient’s conditions are moderate to severe such that they warrant a physical examination or are in danger of collapse, we will recommend a physical clinic visit for further evaluation, or we may help them to activate emergency services.

If WhiteCoat determines that their current condition is mild and stable enough for self-monitoring and treatment at home, we will prescribe necessary treatment, with the advice that any worsening warrants a review, KIV in-clinic or at the A&E.

Are there specific protocols with regards to COVID-19?

Yes. There are specific protocols with regards to the COVID-19; WhiteCoat’s protocols follow, and are regularly updated when there are new MOH guidelines.

What is a leave of absence (LOA)?

A LOA is a precautionary measure intended to prevent possible transmissions of infections. Individuals who have been put on a leave of absence should stay at home and avoid social contact. They should avoid crowded places and attending social or public gatherings, so as to minimise close contact with others. They should monitor their health closely, and seek medical attention if they develop any fever or symptoms of acute respiratory illness such as cough or shortness of breath.

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Are masks necessary / who should wear them?

For the general public who are not having any symptoms at all and are well, there is no requirement to wear a mask.
As a good hygiene measure, people who are not well and have respiratory symptoms should wear a mask so that they do not spread any potential infection to other people. Anyone who has symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible, to make sure that they remain well.

If required, what kind of mask should I wear?

A surgical mask is sufficient and fulfils the important function of preventing a spread if worn properly. The mask should be changed if it gets soiled or stained.

As the COVID-19is spread through droplets, wearing a mask will protect others when someone with respiratory symptoms coughs or sneezes, as the mask would trap those droplets and prevent those droplets from spreading and disseminating.

Download the PDF version of this FAQ here.


About WhiteCoat

WhiteCoat is a digital healthcare provider offering tele-medicine video consultations via an on-demand mobile platform known as the WhiteCoat App. Such services are provided in a regulatory sandbox with the Ministry of Health of Singapore.

Their staff doctors are able to assist patients with (i) common primary healthcare symptoms and related signs; (ii) chronic disease management; (iii) travel medication advice; (iv) discussions on laboratory results; and (v) advice regarding sexual health or contraception. Where appropriate, their staff doctors may through the WhiteCoat App (a) prescribe medication and/or (b) provide a medical certificate and/or a medical referral letter.

With regard to chronic disease management, they are able to prescribe medication for hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and such other secondary diseases which may arise from such chronic disease conditions.

Now available 7 days a week: Mon – Sun, 8AM to 12AM (including PHs)

Source: WhiteCoat’s official site

Check out their latest Facebook video here!

(Featured image via)


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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

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