The Pandemic files

Synopsis * Excerpt * Background

COVID-19 has just begun its devastation, and Singapore journalist Alfred Lin is sent to Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the outbreak. To avoid censorship curbs, he plays a game of cat and mouse with the Chinese authorities. Risking his job, health and safety, he seeks out first-hand accounts of people who have suffered the unimaginable. Loss, death and heartbreak are everywhere. He encounters stories that reveal the best and worst in humanity. Then he comes across unscrupulous scammers, including those from the media, who he tries to expose. A mysterious death also turns into a puzzle as he returns to Singapore - and he has to solve it quickly to save a young life.


Excerpt from Chapter 14

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COVID-19 was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and turned into a deadly pandemic that spread all over the world killing millions. It is mostly seen as a viral health pandemic. To me it is more than that. It is a multi-dimensional viral pandemic in the sense that along with the health pandemic, there was also a fear pandemic, a fake news pandemic, a scams pandemic, a home-cooking pandemic, a technological pandemic in which vaccines were quickly invented, a work culture pandemic in which work-from-home became prevalent and a social, political and economic disruption pandemic in many other ways. It is also a pandemic where the world became more disunited rather than united as most individuals, most social, political and community groups, and most countries distanced themselves and turned inward for self-protection instead of reaching outward for collective protection to deal with the crisis together. The Pandemic Files is a novel about the best and worst in humanity in a crisis.

ISBN 13 (SOFT) 9781543765694

ISBN 13 (HARD) 9781543765700

ISBN 13 (eBook) 9781543765687


The Pandemic Files is a novel. But it’s a mix of fact and fiction. While the plot and characters are fictional, the story is set against a factual background – the COVID-19 pandemic. The plot and characters are a product of my imagination but the facts in the book are a product of research. And in researching the facts about the COVID-19 pandemic I found many facts that are as fascinating as fiction – and which I have included in the book. Facts like …

FACT 1: Viruses are non-living things

FACT 2: COVID-19 can generate a killer storm in the body

FACT 3: COVID-19 is a multi-dimensional pandemic

FACT 1: Viruses are non-living things

We think of viruses as living organisms but the people who know, the scientists, say they are not. We talk about viruses as smart, adaptable, tricky and so on, giving the impression that they are living things – but they are not. They actually can’t do anything on their own. We confuse them with bacteria – which are living things. Read the article below for an understanding of why viruses are not considered living things by scientists.

Read more:

Excerpt from The Pandemic Files: “That’s because we confuse viruses with bacteria – which are living things. And people like to talk of viruses as bugs or as smart, tricky, intelligent or adaptable as if they are living things. Viruses actually can’t do anything on their own. They are passive and float around.  Only when a coronavirus meets a living cell then they hook onto them with their spikes and use proteins on their surfaces to unlock and invade cells. Then they take control of the cell’s molecular machinery to produce and assemble materials through chemical reactions to replicate more viruses.”

“So they are like naval mines. They look like naval mines anyway. Round sphere with spikes. And they float around and when a ship hits the spikes of a naval mine it explodes.”

“Yes, in a way. But coronavirus don’t explode on impact – they go into your body cells and explode by replicating into more viruses.”

FACT 2: COVID-19 can generate a killer storm in the body

Heard of the cytokine storm? No?

Well, I hadn’t either – until I was doing research for my novel, The Pandemic Files. The cytokine storm is one of the major causes of death in COVID-19 fatalities. And when I learnt more about it, I just had to put a passage on it in my book.

The cytokine storm happens when a person’s immune system goes into overkill mode once it senses a threat (such a virus intrusion) to the body. It is basically an over-reaction by the body’s defences. During a cytokine storm too much cytokines are released by the immune system which leads to the overactivation of T-cells and other killer cells. These cells can go out of control and attack the body’s own tissue cells along with the invading virus. This can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and death.

One of the best explanations of the cytokine storm I managed to find online was by Angela Rasmussen, a virologist and associate research scientist at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health:

“Cytokines are proteins used by the immune system as alarm beacons—they recruit immune cells to the site of infection. The immune cells then kill off the infected tissue in a bid to save the rest of the body.

During a runaway coronavirus infection, when the immune system dumps cytokines into the lungs without any regulation, this culling becomes a free-for-all, Rasmussen says ‘Instead of shooting at a target with a gun, you’re using a missile launcher,’ she says. That’s where the problem arises: Your body is not just targeting the infected cells. It is attacking healthy tissue too.

The implications extend outside the lungs. Cytokine storms create inflammation that weakens blood vessels in the lungs and causes fluid to seep through to the air sacs. ‘Basically you’re bleeding out of your blood vessels. The storm spills into your circulatory system and creates systemic issues across multiple organs.”

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FACT 3: COVID-19 is a multi-dimensional pandemic

Excerpt from The Pandemic Files:

“I sat back to reflect. COVID-19 began as a viral storm. It grew into a viral pandemic. But it wasn’t just the disease that grew into a viral pandemic. Fear, as in anxiety or panic disorder or even xenophobia, was also another disease that became a viral pandemic. All over the world there were scenes of panic-buying, fights in supermarkets over toilet paper and people of certain races being scolded or beaten up because of skin colour. Fake news, whether mainstream or on social media, was to me yet another vicious disease that also became a viral pandemic. There was plenty of fear mongering and rumour mongering, twisting of facts for political or monetary gain, false advertising and a whole host of misinformation and disinformation. And scams were definitely a disease that also became a viral pandemic. So many people were duped by unscrupulous people who took advantage of the panic and confusion to cheat. And the travel and movement restrictions and lockdowns were much like the clogging and blockages of the arteries of industrial, commercial and consumer activities. They can also be regarded as a form of economic disease or even a self-induced economic coma, and one that quickly spiraled from one country to another. And so the economic malaise turned into a viral pandemic pushing many economies around the world into recession. So, to me, while COVID-19 may have started off as a virus pandemic it very quickly morphed into a multi-dimensional viral pandemic creating havoc around the world. It wasn’t just a health pandemic – it was also a social, political, economic, technological and cultural pandemic.”

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