Coronavirus numbers – what has the US learned from Asia?
NUMBER OF CASES
This Youtube link will tell you in real time how many cases and deaths by country. Its grim, and its scary. See below under TAKEAWAYS.
As I write on March 22, 2020, there are 339,000 total cases worldwide, almost 15,000 deaths, and 98,000 total recovered.
China has 81,000 current cases and 72,000 recovered.
Italy has 59,000 current cases and 7,000 recovered.
USA has 33,000 current cases and 178 recovered.
Spain has 29,000 current cases and 3,000 recovered.
Germany has 29,000 current cases and 384 recovered.
For statistics in the USA, scroll down to TAKEAWAYS.
WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM SOUTHEAST ASIA?
The following is adapted from an article in BBC News called Coronavirus: What could the West learn from Asia? By Helier Cheung, BBC News, dated March 21, 2020. To read the full article, click HERE
The number of coronavirus cases in the West is skyrocketing, and countries have announced drastic measures, including school closures and lockdowns.
The outbreak hit many countries in Asia several weeks earlier – and some have been praised for containing the number of infections. For example, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan all kept case numbers relatively low – despite their proximity to mainland China.
What did they do differently – and are there any lessons for other countries?
LESSON ONE: TAKE IT SERIOUSLY – AND ACT QUICKLY
Health experts agree on the same measures for containing the outbreak – test widely, isolate those infected, and encourage social distancing.
Many countries didn’t act as quickly as in southeast Asia. “The UK and US lost an opportunity… They had two months from what happened in China, yet there was this perception that ‘China is very far away and nothing’s going to happen’.”
China first reported cases of “mysterious Sars-like pneumonia” to the WHO on 31 December. At this point there was no confirmed human-to-human transmission, and little was known about the virus, but within three days Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong had all stepped up screening at border points
As scientists learned more about the virus, it became apparent that people without symptoms could still be contagious. So testing would be crucial.
LESSON TWO: MAKE TESTS EXTENSIVE, AND AFFORDABLE
Cases in South Korea spiked initially. However, it swiftly developed a test for the virus – and has now tested more than 290,000 people. It conducts about 10,000 tests daily for free.
By contrast, testing in the US was delayed – initial test kits were faulty, and private laboratories found it hard to get their tests approved. Many people struggled to get a test, and they were expensive. Eventually, free testing for everyone was passed in law.
LESSON THREE: TRACE AND ISOLATE
It’s not enough to just test those with symptoms – tracing those with whom they were in contact has been key.
In Singapore, detectives have contact-traced more than 6,000 people – locating individuals with CCTV footage, testing them, and ordering them to self-isolate until their results are clear. In Hong Kong, contact tracing goes back to two days before someone develops symptoms.
In Hong Kong, new arrivals from abroad are required to wear electronic bracelets to track their movements, while in Singapore those self-isolating are contacted several times a day, and required to send photographic proof of their whereabouts.
Many countries in the West will find it hard to adopt such measures due to their larger populations, and greater civil liberties.
LESSON FOUR: EARLY SOCIAL DISTANCING
Social distancing is considered one of the best ways of containing an outbreak.
But the later the measures are introduced, the more extreme they need to be to work.
Both Italy and Spain were forced to introduce national lockdowns after their case numbers rose to the thousands. New York and California have ordered residents to stay at home, except for essential trips like buying groceries.
By contrast, schools are still running in Singapore, although large public gatherings have been cancelled. In Hong Kong, schools have been closed and workers encouraged to work from home – but restaurants and bars remain open.
Some believe the difference is down to how quick governments were to implement social distancing.
LESSON FIVE: KEEP THE PUBLIC WELL INFORMED
China came under fire for being slow to acknowledge the outbreak. It allowed a large political gathering to take place in Wuhan even as concerns grew. The authorities also punished doctors who tried to warn others – sparking fury after one died from the virus.
It has since been praised for effectively slowing the spread of the virus, after imposing a massive lockdown and upscaling its hospital capacity. But critics say such extreme measures were only required because its initial response was slow.
In the US, President Donald Trump has often contradicted health officials about the severity of the outbreak and the number of test kits available. The government has also been unable to provide information on the number of people who have been tested, as many private laboratories have not been feeding data to the CDC.
Some governments have used technology to update residents in great detail. Hong Kong provides an online dashboard of all cases – which includes a map that shows the individual buildings where cases were found. South Korea issues mobile alerts letting people know if they were in the vicinity of a patient.
LESSON SIX: IT’S ALSO DOWN TO INDIVIDUAL ATTITUDES
That’s also seen in the prevalent use of masks in part of Asia, which some say is seen as a sign of “respect towards others”.
By contrast, in much of the West, people have specifically been told not to wear masks unless they are ill, and many Asians have experienced harassment while wearing one.
When it comes to social distancing, some say: “… in America, people are so individualistic – it’s going to be a little harder for us to sacrifice our freedom.”
IS ALL THIS ENOUGH TO STOP THE VIRUS?
Despite having contained the virus, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong are now facing a second coronavirus wave, fuelled by people entering their borders.
But new infection numbers started falling within two to three weeks of lockdown in Hubei province. While China’s shutdown was “drastic”, some believe countries with softer measures should also be able to contain the outbreak within weeks.
By contrast, some worry that if a lockdown ends too early, local transmissions could start again.
“We can’t really relax until there’s a vaccine – which could take about 18 months…”
The virus in China climbed to 80,000 active cases in 2 months. The figure shows 72,000 recovered from the virus to the present date of 22 March. In a population of 1.5 billion people, the TOTAL number of cases in China is less than 0.01%.
China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong have contained the coronavirus, according to this article.
A lack of testing still seems to be the bugaboo in the USA. But a shortage of medical staff and hospital facilities (such as ventilators) looks to be serious in virus hotspots, such as New York and California.
In many states away from the coast, infections are low. New Mexico has 57. Kansas has 64 as of 22 March 3 pm. Maybe the drastic measures taken by these states will lead to containment in less than 2 months. We can hope… and we can all do our bit to follow the advice from southeast Asia.
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The Gray Nomad ….. Read and pray and hope.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand].
I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust [with great confidence, and on whom I rely]!”
For He will save you from the trap of the fowler,
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you and completely protect you with His pinions,
And under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and a wall.
You will not be afraid of the terror of night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction (sudden death) that lays waste at noon.
[Book of Psalms, chapter 91]
Great post, Ian! And I totally agree with everything you say. It’s also useful to know about the truly great job which the Abq Journal is providing as a public service. Here’s the link:
Here’s more to think about: given that our first statewide confirmed cases were 4 on 3/11 with a rapid climb to 43 on 3/20 (total of 10 days), a straight forward calculation fits that data with doubling time of 2.9 days! Wow! Of course, we need more data since it’s front-end loaded, but the trend is a tad scary. Let’s hope (pray?) with all the new measures in place that we can flatten this thing!!!
Out of curiosity, I noticed at the bottom of this link that global data is also available. So I calculated the world-wide doubling time during this same 10-day period for comparison, and I got 9.6 days.
Thanks for sharing. Thinking of you and Mary Ann over there. We are all staying home and hoping Australia can flatten the curve.
Thanks Ian for a good and timely blog. My daughter is a PA working in a clinic in Oregon. She does not have ample protective clothing and equipment for herself or test kits for symptomatic patients. This is the results of our government and health care managers not acting in a wise or timely manner. She feels very much at risk. Because of the critical lack of testing kits, she is limited to testing only symptomatic patients who are over sixty five years old, and those with compromised immune systems. This amounts to about one in ten patients, and the nine other symptomatic patients are told to self-isolate. This has been the circumstances for weeks now. So there could be up to 90% of the positive cases not being reported in her clinic. If this is only partially true in the rest of the United States, the number of positive COVID-19 cases are vastly understated. This is a very large problem, which will severely complicate our getting control of this crisis. It is hard to believe our officials are not acutely aware of these shortfalls and irregularities.