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In the United States, there have been over one million COVID-19 cases and over 61,000 deaths. Economic devastation has accompanied this massive loss of life, with most states at least partially shut down and 30 million jobs lost nationwide. Yet in some other countries, COVID-19 hasn’t exerted nearly as crushing an impact. What did these other countries do that the United States hasn’t? Here’s how other countries beat COVID-19.
South Korea, one of the most powerful countries in Asia, has a population of over 51 million people. To date, the country has reported 10,765 COVID-19 cases and 247 deaths – respectively, 0.02 percent and 0.0004 percent of the total population. Conversely, in the U.S., which has a population of over 330 million people, there have been 1,065,739 COVID-19 cases and 61,715 deaths. Translated to percentages, these figures are, respectively, 0.3 percent and 0.01 percent. Put another way, the U.S. case percentage and death percentage are, respectively, 15 and 25 times that of South Korea.
So, what did South Korea do differently? It may be difficult to explain why deaths are so much more prevalent among U.S. COVID-19 cases, but the massive difference in case prevalence has a simple explanation. Strong Korean government policy and swift, early action deterred the spread of the virus – in fact, South Korea today reported no new domestic COVID-19 cases for the first time in over two months.
South Korea began its battle against COVID-19 by approving a test for the virus one week after the country’s first four COVID-19 cases. South Korea also tested far more often than the U.S. has: During a 24-hour window in late February, South Korea tested four times as many people as the U.S. had during the six weeks prior. Both South Korea and the U.S. reported their first COVID-19 cases on January 19.
In South Korea, any people who tested positive for COVID-19 were asked to detail their recent movements, and officials used GPS, credit card, and surveillance camera records to confirm their actions. This method of tracking someone’s movements, known as contact tracing, has been touted as vital for reopening U.S. states despite the privacy concerns this method raises. In South Korea, officials used contact tracing to quickly identify people that healthcare officials should isolate and treat, leading to the lack of new cases reported today.
Alongside South Korea, Vietnam can be viewed as a world leader in effectively combating COVID-19. Among the country’s 95 million people, only 268 COVID-19 cases have been reported, with no deaths. Additionally, Vietnam has now gone two weeks without a new COVID-19 case.
Like South Korea, Vietnam rolled out significant testing capacity, contact tracing, and isolation and treatment for possibly infected people. Vietnam also mobilized its military, healthcare, and public security systems while introducing educational campaigns that informed citizens about the spread of COVID-19 and the disease’s risks. The country also mandated 14 days of quarantine for all people flying into its international airports or leaving the metropolis of Hanoi, where Vietnam experienced its largest number of COVID-19 cases. Additionally, when new cases were detected, any buildings in which transmission occurred were shut down.
Vietnam remains in a partial state of closure due to fears of a second wave, but until that wave arrives, the country is using its remaining resources wisely. Since Vietnam was able to combat COVID-19 so early and effectively, it has donated medical equipment to Europe and the United States. In the latter country, leading national public health figure and coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci has continuously stressed the need for expanded testing, contact tracing, and isolation – the exact steps that Vietnam and South Korea have taken.