Coronavirus is sweeping through the world, and is present in 187 countries as of now. Countries such as Italy and US are fighting to get the situation under control, but as the Italian Head of State announced, things have gone out of their hands. This is a sad state of affairs, but on the other hand there are other countries such as South Korea which have managed to reign in the virus to a certain extent. Let’s take a look at the successful coronavirus strategies which can be applied in all the countries.
Successful coronavirus strategies: How can countries stop Covid-19
The countries which were hit early by the virus and where the number reached thousands, such as South Korea have managed to flatten the curve. In China, where it all started, the new cases have been diagnosed in people returning from abroad, rather than the local people. Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong have reported about 600 cases in total. So how did they do it?
The successes seen in controlling has been brought about by non-pharmaceutical measures, such as travel restrictions and social distancing.
As the coronavirus is a disease which is spread by contact, to prevent the spread and stop the virus from infecting more people, social distancing is an important measure which was undertaken by all the countries including South Korea. The aim was to sever the chain of transmission which could stop the virus from escalating and going into an exponential growth cycle.
Countries such as India have learnt this early on, and have taken strict measures and put the country under lockdown, in order to stop people from coming into contact with contagious people. Even though the virus showed up in the country in February, only through travelers from abroad (with an exception of a few countries), quarantine has been effective. The numbers have not escalated but the next few weeks will reveal whether the social distancing policy has worked or not.
South Korea’s successful strategy in fighting coronavirus
South Korea has been globally applauded for the strategy it has applied to stop coronavirus from spreading. As Italy’s death toll surpassed China’s and US’s death toll is rising, South Korea has one of the lowest mortality rates due to Coronavirus.
According to the researchers of the John Hopkins University, the Covid-19 death rate is only 0.97% in South Korea, as compared to the 7.94% in Italy, 3.98% in Mainland China and Hong Kong, and 1.68 % in the US.
South Korea has a thriving biotech industry which is made of multiple small companies which are run by researchers. When the Chinese published the genome sequence of coronavirus, the companies used the information to produce tests rapidly. The country is now well-equipped and can test 20,000 people in one day.
Another of South Korea’s successful strategy has been to open up drive-in testing centers where people could go, drive through and get tested. People who tested positive were put into quarantine. This large scale and aggressive testing has helped the country to identify people who could spread the virus.
In February, mobile phone records, receipts of credit cards as well as other kind of private data were obtained by the government and used to ascertain the movement of positive corona cases. They made this data public so people could know if they had come into contact with anyone who had tested positive, especially if they develop symptoms.
Though the government has been diligently fighting the battle, the war is not won yet as the only way to eradicate the virus would be to develop a vaccine which would take some time. Till then everyone would have to participate in the battle by staying at home.
In Singapore, mass gatherings have been cancelled though the schools have not closed. Students have to go through a temperature screening in order to gain entry. Temperature screening is also been done in most office buildings and restaurants.
In schools, in the beginning of every class, photos of the class are taken so that students would know who they are sitting next to, if anyone fell ill.
Singapore has also developed a serology test, a blood test which tests for antibodies which show if a person has had a previous infection. Getting to know who has been infected is important to understand the seriousness of the virus. This test was highly useful to find some cases within a church group, and then quarantine them.
Though the number of cases in Singapore has gone up, the numbers have not increased explosively, most probably because the virus has been tracked aggressively, in the areas where it was prevalent. Due to the early detection of cases, no deaths have been reported in Singapore. Health authorities in Singapore have been able to sever multiple transmission chains, tracking down those who came into contact with the virus and ordering them to stay in quarantine. Quarantined people are also checked twice daily to see if they developed fever.
But still, as the number of cases has gone up, stay at home has been imposed, and if anyone violates the rule, there will be a 10,000 dollar fine. The government has done a good job of educating the people in how to stay safe as well as how to keep others safe.
Singapore is therefore one of the countries winning against Coronavirus, but it will take time to completely be free of the virus, and apart from the other measures put in place, social distancing has to be in place.
Hong Kong’s coronavirus strategy: how it went wrong
Hong Kong, just like South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan has faced the 2003 SARS outbreak. The maximum number of cases of SARS was in Hong Kong, apart from mainland China. The people still have the scars from that trauma.
After SARS, the Hong Kong govt put in place some measures to curb the spread of contagious, infective diseases such as the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic and SARS. The public took their respiratory hygiene seriously, and routinely wear surgical masks, if they fall sick, so that it does not spread to others.
Initially, Hong Kong government was swift in taking action, as they went on the offensive against the virus: social distancing, virus mapping, intensive hand-washing, wearing masks and so on, for the prevention of Covid- 19.
In the beginning of March there were only 150 cases, in the city of over 7.5 million people. The people became relaxed and started going out to work, having dinners together, visiting the park and other public places, attending weddings and other social events. Most people wore masks, but some people went without the mask for short trips. This false sense of ‘normalcy’ has now doubled the cases, even as the number of ‘imported’ cases are on the rise.
It was evident that quarantine measures were inadequate as local transmission began again. Hong Kong is now back to fighting the pandemic, and has put draconian controls into place, including the electronic tagging of newcomers to the city, who have to follow a 14-day quarantine, and they would be prosecuted if they violated it. Police have been patrolling the streets in the nightlife districts to find anyone violating quarantine, and arrested 5 people. Two of them had cut off the wristbands to venture out of their homes.
Work from home is in place for civil servants and private businesses too would have to do the same. Bars and restaurants would be closed, and only residents would be allowed to enter Hong Kong. It has stopped the transit for international flights.
Hong Kong let its guard down and now have to fight the third wave. So the lesson here is that countries cannot become complacent, and let their guard down, even when the number of cases decline. Only when the number of cases reduces to zero, for a few months, can the governments be sure that the virus is out of circulation.
For countries who are just introducing lockdown, then they could be in lockdown for quite a few months.
Why does Germany have the lowest death rate?
Germany is on the list of the countries which have the highest number of coronavirus cases, but it has the lowest number of deaths. This could be due to the professional care that the patients have received. In Germany, the number of nurses per 1,000 people is 13.2 which has made a difference. The professional care the patient receives in ICU and in the hospital is essential to the patient management and finally, survival.
So, Germany is one of the countries winning against Coronavirus, as the number of people who have died from the disease has been quite low, as compared to Italy and US. The coronavirus is straining the resources of even the most advanced countries in terms of healthcare.
What can be done for the prevention of Covid- 19?
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Looking at the successful containment strategies of Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea, aggressive testing is one of the strategies that countries must follow. In countries like India, with low healthcare resources, the pandemic has to be stopped by complete lockdown of the country, as has been initiated by the government. Social distancing and isolation can break the chain of community transmission and curb the virus from doing immense harm.