Special Report

What Countries With Some Success Against the Coronavirus Are Doing to Flatten the Curve

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South Korea
> Measure: Testing widely for the virus
> COVID-19 confirmed cases: 10,537
> COVID-19 related deaths: 217
> Population: 51.7 million

As of this week, it appears that South Korea has flattened the curve. The country reported over 10,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases, among the top 20 countries for total cases. The peak appears to have been on Feb. 29, when more than 900 new cases were identified. On March 5, there were 438 new cases. On April 13, just 25 new confirmed cases were reported.

South Korea appears to have reined in the outbreak without some of the strict lockdown strategies put in place by other countries. There has been no full lockdown imposed in any city, but people took social distancing guidelines and recommendations for self-isolation seriously.

South Korea was quick to start massive testing of people — even those who had no symptoms but had traveled to Wuhan, China, where the virus originated. It had also tracked the people someone who had tested positive had been in contact with. Health officials quickly urged private companies to start developing coronavirus test kits for mass production, all but guaranteeing emergency approval of the kits.

Despite its success, South Korea appears to now be fighting another coronavirus battle. An increasing number recovered patients have tested positive again. The cause of relapses is still not clear.

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> Measure: Isolating, quarantining cases, contact tracing
> COVID-19 confirmed cases: 2,532
> COVID-19 related deaths: 8
> Population: 5.6 million

Singapore was the worst hit country outside of China two months after the new coronavirus was detected in China. Another two months later and the country is often cited as an example of how to handle a pandemic. As of April 13, there were 2,532 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Singapore and eight deaths. The country has learned its lesson from fighting the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003.

This time, COVID-19 patients were not allowed to self-isolate at home even if they had mild symptoms, thus preventing family members from catching it. Contact tracing has been implemented aggressively. A law was passed after the SARS outbreak allowing officials to use an app to trace the footsteps of citizens who test positive for an emerging infectious disease. The app, called TraceTogether, has been used to identify people who have been exposed to patients infected with the coronavirus.

Another effective measure Singapore took was closing its borders for people coming from China just a week after Chinese authorities announced they would lock down Wuhan. Singapore later expanded its travel restrictions, shutting down its borders to all short-term visitors, even those just transiting through.

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> Measure: Early strict measure to quarantine possible cases
> COVID-19 confirmed cases: 393
> COVID-19 related deaths: 6
> Population: 23.8 million

Taiwan was prepared for the coronavirus based on its experience with the SARS outbreak in 2003. At that time, more than 70 Taiwanese died directly or indirectly from the disease that originated in China. After the SARS outbreak, Taiwan established the National Health Command Center (NHCC). Taiwan improved infection testing and training at its medical centers and put in place protocols for quarantine. The nation also developed a coordinated response among the nation’s health officials to gather data and probe cases involving infectious diseases.

The island nation of more than 23 million people used data pertaining to the virus and acted quickly to address the pandemic. When China notified the World Health Organization about cases of unknown pneumonia, Taiwenese officials acted swiftly, boarding planes from China to check passengers for fever and symptoms of pneumonia before allowing passengers to deplane.

When China announced on Jan. 20 that the virus could be transmitted between people, Taiwan banned those from Wuhan from entering the island. People returning to Taiwan from virus hotspots in Europe and the United States were quarantined for 14 days. The government worked closely with phone companies to track cell phones of returnees and was prepared to levy hefty fines on those who violated the quarantine order.

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Hong Kong
> Measure: Strictly enforced social distancing
> COVID-19 confirmed cases: 1,009
> COVID-19 related deaths: 4
> Population: 7.5 million

Hong Kong has employed a strategy of aggressive testing, isolating those who have become infected from the outbreak, and tracking the contacts of those who have been infected. The uninfected population has been urged to practice social distancing while trying to maintain as much of a normal life as possible as health officials keep a close watch on any resurgence of the virus. Hong Kong has among the highest testing per capita rates of any place in the world, according to health authorities. Quarantined people in Hong Kong are given electronic wristbands that link with smartphones and track their location. When there was a resurgence in confirmed cases in March, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam on March 23 announced that non-residents would be barred from the territory, a semi-autonomous region of China, effective March 25.

Hong Kong, which has few land borders, is able to shut down travel quickly. It developed rapid response protocols following its experience with the SARS outbreak from China in 2003. On Dec. 31, when China first reported the novel coronavirus to the World Health Organization, Hong Kong started temperature screenings at border points along its 19-mile border with China.

Source: Emanuele Cremaschi / Getty Images News via Getty Images

> Measure: Nationwide lockdown
> COVID-19 confirmed cases: 156,363
> COVID-19 related deaths: 19,899
> Population: 60.3 million

Italy, one of the world’s worst-hit nations from the COVID-19 pandemic, appears to be finally flattening the curve. To fight the spread of the disease, Italy implemented an unprecedented national lockdown, which was ordered by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on March 10 and banned nonessential travel. Police set up checkpoints around the country to enforce the order.

Data indicated that the measure was finally beginning to work. From March 31 to April 1, total COVID-19 cases in Italy increased by 4.5%, in contrast to a 12.6% surge between March 16-17. Since Italy was the first nation in the West to struggle with a severe outbreak, and the first to employ a lockdown, the world is watching to see when Italy will begin to reopen. At a recent news conference, Conte urged caution. “If we started to loosen the measures, all our efforts made so far would have been in vain,” he said.

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