South Korea was arguably the best-prepared nation to face a pandemic after lessons learned from the MERS outbreak in 2015. | Source: (Lee Ji-eun/Yonhap via AP
- Taiwan, South Korea, and New Zealand celebrate overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Taiwan and New Zealand reported no new cases, and South Korea reported new cases only from foreigners traveling into the country.
- Highly optimistic data from the three countries can be used as blueprint for recovery in other countries.
South Korea is ending social distancing, New Zealand reported zero new coronavirus cases for two consecutive days, and Taiwan’s total cases remain at 438. These three countries are confident that they are defeating the virus and is showing highly optimistic data for the rest of the world.
Here’s what New Zealand, Taiwan and South Korea did differently since the beginning, and how other countries could overcome coronavirus in the near-term.
Source: Norbert Elekes
Hard and early, eliminate new coronavirus cases and aggressively test
All three countries took strict, proactive measures to slow down the spread of coronavirus.
New Zealand residents were told to enter self-isolation for two full weeks when the country merely had 102 cases.
At the time, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said:
We only have 102 cases, but so did Italy once.
Similarly, when South Korea found that the metropolitan city of Daegu showed signs of mass infections, the city was locked down and everyone within the area was asked to isolate themselves.
After the early lockdowns came the tests. South Korea used drive-thru testing points to test as many people as possible within a short period of time.
Early measures prove to be efficient for South Korea | Source: Richard Burgon
New Zealand ran more than 32,000 tests per 1 million people, exceeding the testing capacity of the U.S. on paper.
New Zealand ran more coronavirus tests than the U.S. per 1 million people | Source: worldometers.info
With large-scale testing deployed and early self-isolation complete, the final measure that reduced the spread of coronavirus was the use of masks.
Both surgical and N-95 masks cannot stop coronavirus particles from entering the human body. The particles are too small and spreads easily from person to person.
A driver gets a coronavirus test at a drive-through clinic in Seoul, South Korea, March 3, 2020. | Source: Yonhap via REUTERS
The masks, however, significantly lessens the spread of coronavirus particles. A study in Japan found that simple conversations could cause coronavirus to spread, without sneezes or coughs.
For that reason, masks were critical in preventing the coronavirus outbreak from expanding over time.
Taiwan, as an example, is one of the two countries alongside Hong Kong that reported more than 1,000 cases during the SARS epidemic.
Since then, the general population of Taiwan had the habit of using masks on a daily basis, especially when there are early signs of a virus outbreak.
Major hotels in China celebrate no new coronavirus cases | Source: Morgan Everett
Other countries can follow the same footsteps
The peak of coronavirus is passing in many cities in Europe and the U.S. In the past week, the U.S., Italy, and Spain, three most infected countries in the world, started the process of opening up their economies.
Based on the measures taken by Taiwan, South Korea, and New Zealand, a habitual usage of masks and continuous testing in areas that are heavily affected by coronavirus can slow the spread of the virus.
Researchers in China and the U.S., including Dr. Anthony Fauci, suggested the possibility of coronavirus being a seasonal virus. If that is the case, then vaccines are necessary to completely eliminate the virus in the long-term.
When other countries see a consistent decline in new cases and confidently pass the coronavirus peak, it can provide more time for vaccine development over the next 18 months.
This article was edited by Samburaj Das.