December 1

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What We Can Learn from East Asia about COVID-19 Strategies

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught lessons about developing personal responsibility, adapting to societal changes, and executing strategies as a means to protect the health of all individuals. Countries around the world are discovering and reinventing new ways to respond to the global pandemic. With immense time pressure and lives at stake, it is no surprise that many countries are struggling. The United States has attempted to ensure adherence to specific guidelines such as wearing a face mask in public, practicing proper social distancing, and maintaining personal responsibility in preventing the virus. East Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong have effectively and efficiently implemented strategies that have been relatively successful in containing COVID-19. The United States can recognize the efforts East Asian countries have made to combat COVID-19 in its own mitigation strategy improvements. In particular, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan’s strategies can serve as an example for pandemic response and assist in improving future guidelines and plans. 

Enforced Plan and Guidelines with No Exceptions

Taiwan has a population of more than 23 million people and, at the beginning of the spread of COVID-19 in March, the country only had 451 cases and seven deaths (Farr & Gao, 2020). Taiwan had taken fast and efficient action in creating enforcements for their population and implemented consequences if individuals did not follow the specific guidelines. For most countries in the world, individuals are required to wear face masks before entering public buildings. Yet, Taiwan also established large fines if people were caught without wearing face masks in designated areas or breaking their two week quarantine requirements (Farr & Gao, 2020). This encouraged people to maintain their personal responsibility by wearing face masks and abiding by the rules. Taiwan effectively imposed restrictions for its population as a way to contain the virus. In addition to strong enforcement, Taiwan implemented travel restrictions such as limiting air travel and increasing border control. With the country’s proximity to China, the epicenter of the pandemic, public health experts urged the importance of these travel restrictions (Farr & Gao, 2020).

Digital Technology and Effective Communication 

In May 2020, South Korea had the highest number of cases outside of China, but the country successfully utilized their strategies to control the spread during the summer (Zhou, 2020). Officials established drive-thru testing centers and created digital tracking technology including “CCTV footage, credit card transactions and smartphone location data to monitor potential patients” (Zhou, 2020). South Korea employed technology as a means to track potentially infected individuals and ensure quarantine compliance. South Korea’s use of technology allowed the government to stay connected with its population to ensure the proper health information was given. Their connectedness via technology advanced the South Korean population not only in contact tracing, but in providing health resources for their testing centers and treatments (Zhou, 2020). 

Pandemic Contingency Plan

East Asian countries benefited from having closer and simpler supply chains that provided essentials during the COVID-19 pandemic. Utilizing resources that were closer to home made it easier to distribute for medical and individual uses (Hub staff, 2020). Additionally, South Korean and Japanese governments stepped in to “incentivize production when the medical system lacked essential supplies” (Hub staff, 2020). This plan accounts for potential future pandemics, incorporates use of digital technology, and localizes vital supply chains to prevent lack of essential supplies (Hub staff, 2020). 

It is important to recognize other countries that could positively impact plans and guidelines for future pandemics. With the uncertainty of this public health crisis, we have embarked on this journey of learning and discovering more on how to handle pandemics and also ourselves. In the end, many countries have provided and implemented strategies on how to handle the pandemic but it is crucial to look to successful strategies as examples. 

References:

Farr, C., & Gao, M. (2020, July 15). How Taiwan beat the coronavirus. CNBC. 

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/15/how-taiwan-beat-the-coronavirus.html

Hub staff. (2020, May 13). East asia offers mixed lessons in COVID-19 response. Johns Hopkins University. https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/05/13/east-asian-response-to-coronavirus/

Zhou, C. (2020, April 23). Why are western countries being hit harder than east asian countries by coronavirus? ABC NEWS. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-24/coronavirus-response-in-china-south-korea-italy-uk-us-singapore/12158504

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