When the news of coronavirus hitting parts of China broke out early this year, most people around the world were still relaxed. That's basic human tendency. We take things seriously only when the threat is direct.
No one had thought, though, that this threat will become so direct so soon. As I write this article, thousands of people across the world have lost their lives to the virus, while many others have tested positive for it.
The rescue missions are in full swing with this unexpected emergency over shadowing everything, but a lot of damage has already been done.
So automatically, it becomes our responsibility to take lessons from countries which have been successful in containing the virus to a large extent. This will include: Vietnam, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
So far the MOST SUCCESSFUL and proactive responses to CORONA Plague has come from... Asian DEMOCRACIES, participatory South Korea and Taiwan, where TRANSPARENCY, collaboration and ACCOUNTABILITY are key policy principles!— Richard Heydarian (@Richeydarian) March 12, 2020
I'd like to start with the best example - Taiwan.
But before that, we have to go back to 2002-2003, when it all started. SARS - Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome broke out in China, claiming 774 lives in 17 countries. Incidentally, SARS was a variation of coronavirus - called SARS-CoV.
Around 2004, the virus was controlled, but hardly did people know that it will return stronger 16 years later.
Taiwan was prepared this time around, though. With 73 deaths, the country was one of the worst sufferers of SARS and it decided to never let that repeat. So, how exactly did Taiwan contain coronavirus this time around? I'll break it down in points for ease of understanding.
1. Setting up of a Command Center.
The aim was simple. To have one organisation working towards controlling the spread of such diseases. With a media team, analysis team and other sections at work 24*7, it was made sure that information from local governments reached the command center immediately. This way, they were successful in making a clear path for communication.
As mentioned before, Taiwan was alert. So, as soon as the news of a new virus broke, the country didn't take any time to take action. Even at the risk of being 'overly cautious', health officials from Taiwan started checking passengers coming in the flights from Wuhan, where the first case of coronavirus happened. They started these checkups as early as December 31, 2019.
3. Maintaining strong communication with citizens
Taiwan never hid any information from its citizens. They were told the number of patients who have tested positive, and casualties if any. Press conferences were held right from the start, sometimes even twice a day. This meant people started placing trust on the authorities and hence panicked less.
I visited a pharmacy in #Taipei to learn how they’re working to prevent the spread of #COVID19 & ensure people have access to a steady supply of face masks. Truly touched by their dedication to keeping #Taiwan safe & healthy. pic.twitter.com/6K6KEBQy4s— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) March 7, 2020
4. A 'detailed list of actions'
The preparedness of Taiwan can be gauged simply by the fact that there is a list of action, available on the internet, which shows what the government did on a particular date. This includes travel bans, intensive check ups and subsidising masks, sanitisers etc.
We found one which has all the information till February 21 and you can check out the same, here.
Second best and one of the most praised countries, has to be Vietnam, with only 61 cases so far.
Apart from travel restrictions and shutdowns, this is what Vietnam did to stop the virus from spreading to millions:
1. Launch of mobile apps
This are two mobile apps, one for Vietnamese citizens and one for foreigners living in Vietnam, where people are required to keep updating their health status so that the government has one steady database.
2. Production of test kits approved by the WHO
There isn't much international news on this, but many Vietnamese websites claim that after a successful pilot, the test kits are now being made in bulk, and they follow the guidelines laid out by the World Health Organisation.
3. Construction of 'chambers' that disinfect people
All the residents have to do is, enter the chamber, where disinfectant is poured on them from all sides, which is said to get rid of 90% of bacteria and viruses on the body.
Singapore is another good example to consider when discussing the containment of coronavirus.
While the numbers are pretty big, with 243 patients currently, the country has been successful in limiting them, when you consider the fact that by mid-February, it already had around 60 cases.
The spike in the cases in countries like Italy is not even comparable, here. How is Singapore coping with the pandemic, here's how:
1. Taking measures early on
Even before the outbreak became so serious, Singapore had started with ways to control it. The screenings were done regularly, people were tested and the government made sure every sector was in sync.
2. Keeping an eye on the citizens
A few days ago, the Singapore government issued a strict warning for the elderly people (also the most vulnerable), asking them to stay indoors. It was found that many of them were taking singing/dancing classes and a ban was put on the same.
US has among the worst records in the entire world of preparing for, testing, or otherwise coping with Corona virus. Here is the evidence yet again. https://t.co/hTjTbQ9opl— Richard D. Wolff (@profwolff) March 15, 2020
3. Restricting entry from Mainland China as early as late-January
China and Singapore have strong economic ties but the government took the difficult decisions and imposed a restriction for the security of its citizens.
This is very interesting : why in singapore corona is not rising. pic.twitter.com/I9TJJpA6lM— Doctors for AAP (@AapDoctors) March 13, 2020
Much like Singapore, Hong Kong also picked up the signs early on and and closed schools and public places around the end of January.
With 157 cases in total, Hong Kong has been quite prolific in containing the virus and that comes from its trauma of the SARS virus in 2003.
SARS had claimed around 300 lives in Hing Kong, most outside Mainland China, and that gave them a big lesson social distancing.
The future planning in Hong Kong is also quite admirable as the government has already started considering keeping schools shut beyond April 20.
Corona virus response in the east is amazing, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore able to flatten the curve. It will be wise in addition to CDC or Euro CDC, look at these countries and policies they implemented. Drive through diagnostic test in South Korea, wow! #COVID2019— Mohammed U. Dafil (@dafil) March 17, 2020