- South Korea, Taiwan, and New Zealand flattened their coronavirus curves by implementing widespread testing and contact tracing.
- South Koreans updated some of their digital data in relation to the coronavirus on a minute-by-minute basis giving its citizens the power to avoid coming in contact with the virus.
- The US has flattened the curve but many fear that coronavirus cases will jump as businesses open up.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has been going on for months now, wreaking havoc and taking the lives of over 400,000 people worldwide since its known beginning in Wuhan, China, in late December 2019. The virus that causes people to fall sick with COVID-19 can cause a multitude of symptoms. The most common and serious of these are a fever, a dry cough and difficulty breathing. People with underlying conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease, as well as the elderly, tend to fare more poorly in the face of the virus, but recent history has shown that anyone can get it and that it is difficult to predict who will face a deadly battle once COVID-19 strikes.
What is “flattening the curve?” Many health officials have spoken of this idea in relation to the coronavirus. This term refers to what we see in graphs that chart the trajectory of the virus. Places that have a “rising curve” show a line on a graph that is going up, like a hill. This line references the number of coronavirus cases in the community.
Locations where the “curve” has been “flattened” are places in which the new cases of the coronavirus have dropped, and the virus has not resurged. On a graph, this results in a line that slopes downwards from the peak of the outbreak, and that stays relatively flat for a number of days or weeks. If your community or country has “flattened the curve” it has succeeded in lowering the new cases of COVID-19 and has kept the virus at bay for a while.
Many places are still battling the coronavirus. As states in the US open up businesses and services, reports indicate that cases of COVID-19 there are also rising. It may be quite some time before the US really does effectively flatten its own coronavirus curve. It is possible to do, however, and many countries are said to already be having low rates of new infections. These include New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, China, Denmark, the UK, New South Wales, Vietnam, and Japan.
New Zealanders took serious action early on to rid their country of the coronavirus. With just a handful of cases of COVID-19 in the country, extreme lockdown measures were implemented at the end of February. By April, new cases of the coronavirus were down to just a few in the entire country. In order to get here though, Kiwis had to undergo what are likely the most strict lockdown measures in the world, for about a month. Domestic vehicle travel was restricted across the country, people could not purchase anything that was not deemed essential-even online-air travel was brought to a halt, recreation away from just outside your home was declared illegal, all borders were closed, and QR codes were used at stores for contact tracing.
By staying put-a lot-and being vigilant, New Zealanders were able to stamp out the virus quickly compared with other countries.
The coronavirus came to South Korea via a Chinese woman from Wuhan who visited the country on January 20, 2020. The virus spread quickly, infecting thousands of people, and by February 29, a daily record of 909 new cases of the virus were detected in just 24 hours. South Koreans took quick and severe action in response to this. Within a week, the number of new cases was halved, and the curve has continued to go down.
How did they do it? First, South Koreans were generally willing to listen to their government when it came to coronavirus measures. Social trust is high.
In addition to promoting the wearing of masks, and common sense solutions like washing your hands, the country used technology to stop the spread of the virus, by implementing contact tracing and alerting anyone who had come in contact with a recent case of the coronavirus through their cell phone. Websites and smartphone apps were used to update information about who had the virus and where on an hourly, (and sometimes “minute-ly”) basis. This empowered South Koreans with information. It allowed them to avoid coming into contact with the virus unnecessarily. South Koreans were said to be easily compliant with a potential loss of privacy in the face of the virus, in order to help contain it.
In addition to effective communication, widespread testing was done. Officials hoped they could detect the coronavirus in those who were asymptomatic, to halt its spread. In fact, the South Korean government actually promoted ALL people getting tested. The government now has good approval ratings, and South Koreans seem to be happy with the way things went.
Taiwan was also effective at flattening the curve. The country is said to have learned lessons from the SARS outbreak that killed 181 people there. Early monitoring and restriction of travelers going to and from Wuhan specifically, as well as other hot spots in Chian, and the use of extensive contact tracing contributed in a large part to the decline of the virus in Taiwan. The country is also said to have monitored those who fell sick intensely, and to have worked hard to hunt down all those who may have come in contact with the sick patients, as was done in South Korea. This proved to be effective for those living in Taiwan, and the country did not even have to resort to lockdown measures or social distancing.
Clearly, some routes towards flattening the curve seem to work better than others. When people engage in lockdown measures and social distancing, as well as wearing masks, this can go a long way towards containing the spread of the novel coronavirus. To truly flatten the virus’ curve quickly, however, other measures seem to be useful. When citizens are willing to lose some of their health privacy for the greater good, the virus can be contained more rapidly. Digital contact tracing done with smartphone apps, as well as the implementation of very widespread testing for the coronavirus seem to be some of the best ways to get rid of it. According to Time.com, the US has succeeded in flattening the curve, but there are fears another wave of infection could come as things open up. Will schools, businesses and other services be up and running like normal come September? If populations are vigilant, this is possible.