Written by Dr. Roberto Tan
The gravity of the effect of the COVID-19 has taken us all by surprise. As early as the 13th of February 2020, the 12th Asian Pacific Orthodontic Conference (joint with the 9th IOC and the 79th JOS Annual Meeting) activities and events were all set and the provisional schedule of meetings was already sent out to all the Executive Committee Members (ECMs) of the Asian Pacific Orthodontic Society (APOS). Among these are the following: the schedule of the Annual General Meeting of the APOS Executive Committee Members, the Residents Forum, the APOS President Breakfast Meeting and the program for the APOS speakers.
In our region, the Malaysian Association of Orthodontists (MAO) was the first to call-off and postpone the MAOISCTE Annual Meeting scheduled on April 18-20, 2020, followed by the sought after (AAO) American Association of Orthodontists Annual Session scheduled on the 1st till the 5th of May. There is a serious concern regarding the health and safety of everyone as the number of those infected globally has reached over eight hundred thousand and over forty thousand deaths and still counting.
With regards to the effect of the pandemic on each of the APOS affiliated society, I have contacted the respective ECMs and the information on their status is as follows:
- At the moment, Iranian Association of Orthodontists (IrAO) is the most affected. As per text message by Dr. Hooman Zarnegar: “It is very horrible here. For each 10 minutes, one person dies and for every one hour, 120 people are infected. Of course, this statistic is underestimated. It is about one month that ministry of health recommended to close dental clinics.”
- The Association of Orthodontists Singapore (AOS), Taiwan Association of Orthodontists (TAO) and Japanese Orthodontic Society (JOS) are managing well as they continue to work on their patients with stringent measures to protect both the patients and the doctors.
- The Macao Association of Orthodontists (MacAO) is back to work after the government implemented an early lockdown in February.
- The Hong Kong Society of Orthodontists (HKSO) has a positive outlook on the current situation. According to HKSO ECM CD Tran, they have gone through the SARS before; consequently, they are all mentally prepared in the containment of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The Hong Kong community has also responded tremendously well. Hong Kong, prior to the COVID-19 spread was waging a different battle on protest and rally with their government since June 2019.
- The Korean Association of Orthodontists (KAO) who at the start of the COVID-19 experienced mass infection, seems to control the spread and they are now slowly returning back to their routine with great caution.
- The rest of the affiliate societies are almost in the same page implementing their own or government imposed social distancing measures and safety mechanisms to protect everyone. Other affiliate members give little information about their status or did not reply.
It is apparent that those who have experienced the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003 are better prepared in handling this situation. The preparedness, strict regulations and early response from their government helped them manage to get through with the current situation. The COVID-19 situation is unprecedented. Most of our members have not experienced this magnitude before. There is a sense of FEAR among our members as we are facing an uncertain time.
We all know that China is one of the countries greatly affected by the COVID-19 with over eighty thousand cases and three thousand three hundred deaths as of the latest count. I had the opportunity to ask the APOS President Prof. Yanheng Zhou who is based in Beijing, China on how they managed the plague and he has one advise for everyone: “Stay Home!” He explained that it was only when the Chinese government enforced the strict lockdown measure to stay at home for 45 days that they were able to flatten the curve of the spread of the virus. The Chinese Orthodontic Society (COS) clinics were closed since the Chinese Lunar New Year until March 15. Of course, they still followed the recommended basic sanitation measures, social distancing and wearing of face masks every time they talk to someone or go out to do errands. As of today, Prof. Zhou is back to work at least thrice a week.
The census on the pandemic is worrisome. The news is as alarming as the numbers of new COVID-19 cases rise and therefore the sense of fear and uncertainty fills the air. As I go through the stories of our members, I have realized that during these trying times, preparedness, discipline, responsibility towards humanity, honesty and hopefulness are some of the things that we can all learn from the current situation. There is always the silver lining in every situation and with it comes the promise of better days ahead.
I ask all the APOS members to unite again as “One APOS, One Voice” …this time in prayer for the safety, health and well-being of all the members, their families and especially to those who need it most.
We hope to see each other 6 months from now at the 12th APOC if condition permits. The 9th IOC organizing committee is carefully monitoring the development of the current situation and hopefully the tides will be, then, on our favor.
Stay healthy, safe and hopeful, everyone!