Updated: May 8
Writer: Edsel Pragiwaka Adristi | Illustrator: Carina Audrey Budiarto
In this year 2020, humankind is faced with one of the most feared challenges human has gone through, a pandemic. The coronavirus may not be the deadliest outbreak in the last century but it will be remembered as the easiest virus to be transmitted. According to the BBC, their data shows the growth of the Coronavirus what started as an outbreak in Wuhan, China back in early January 2020, now has turned into a worldwide crisis with 3 million people infected (per April 28) which put millions of lives on the line, only in the course of 4 months. As of now life feels so different, locking ourselves behind doors, meeting loved ones through video calls, shutting off our presumed “normal” life and averting it into a new type of “normal”.
Some people think this is ridiculous, unnecessary, redundant, but simply we have no other choice. If we want to flatten the curve and end this pandemic for good, we have to live responsibly and carry on physical distancing as how we are right now at least for a while. On the other hand, there are several countries in which they have successfully flatten the curve and as of now at the beginning of May, they are mostly functional though with extra precautions and not behind doors. Our focus is at three countries that represent the closest environment and condition to Japan are South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. Singapore lies as an inbetweener for Japan and Indonesia since its close proximity to Indonesia.
South Korea, has done the one thing that the whole world has hoped for, they flatten the curve. Though they used to have a rough start, by having the highest amount of confirmed case only in the counts of weeks, from what used to be only 51 confirmed cases they rocketed to 8,000 cases in 2 weeks. With hundreds of new positive cases each day, it would seem like South Korea would not be coming back from it. However, the trend of new cases in South Korea seems to get lower and lower, from hundreds to tens, and at the end of April, there are only less than 10 new cases. What did they do? Expensive Toolkits? Miraculous Doctor? Strict policy within the country? None of those. It’s the fact that they react fast with the right attitude! The South Koreans long before the case got into thousands, they already came prepared. When the cases have hit their first double digits, they already got one hundred thousand testing toolkits ready to be distributed throughout hospitals. They even go as far as putting GPS trackers on the identified positive patient which is linked to the application on their citizen’s smartphone. Subduing the outbreak required keeping citizens fully informed and asking for their cooperation, said Mr. Kim, the vice health minister of South Korea. Their strategy based on the “better safe than sorry” mentality, and also because they are equipped with the right knowledge from handling the MERS outbreak back in 2012. Though with their thriving success at handling the pandemic when it is wanted to be applied in other countries it might be too late for the highly infected countries to catch up by using this technique. South Korea’s solution proved that the best solution is not the most expensive but the smartest and the fastest.
Similar to South Korea, Taiwan’s swift and decisive action on facing the Coronavirus may have saved their country from facing massive lockdown and plummeting economy. Also similar to South Korea, the Taiwan government is already fully geared with the knowledge from the past SARS Pandemic in 2003 which when compared to the Coronavirus outbreak is much more significant. The Taiwanese government in total has taken 124 Safety Protocol regarding the virus from the first day the virus had broken out. Among those safety protocols, the action that caught the most attention is when they immediately increase the local production of masks by 2.4 million from its normal 1.1 million masks, and by a week they already got 4 million masks ready to distribute, not mentioning the government sets masks prices lower to 10 U.S. Dollar per 50 pieces. The other action they took was that they already keeping free spaces by freeing military dorms and bases even before the numbers of the infected are not high. Until now, because of the actions they have taken, the positive cases in Taiwan is no more than 500 confirmed cases with 300 of them have successfully recovered (per April 28). Even though they are successful in flattening the curve Health Minister of Taiwan Chen Shih-chung told reporters, "The pandemic has not stopped so we shouldn't let our guard down, but this is still something to be happy about." As if he was speaking not only for Taiwan but also the whole world.
Singapore being the world business hub has a lot of responsibilities in its hand to keep its citizens safe from the Coronavirus. Since it may be hard for them to shut off airports and international businesses, one thing that they can do is limiting human interaction by putting travel restrictions early for its citizen and initiate partial lockdown which reduced the number of imported cases. They also did some backtracking of its Coronavirus patient’s family member where they have been in an attempt to mitigate the virus’s spread. Their policy of partial lockdown is prohibiting every citizen from coming out of their homes except for essential needs and exercise. If they got caught off guard strolling the neighborhood without a real reason, they will be expected a large fine from the government of Singapore, as much as 10,000 SGD. It seems rather effective because for the first few weeks the number of confirmed cases has once reached zero and the number of recovered patients increases. However, there was a hole in Singapore’s wall of lockdown. They missed the staggering amount of foreign workers that lived in dormitories, according to the BBC just in the middle of April, when the cases seemed to settled down, these foreign worker dormitories cluster caused the case to raise by 500 confirmed for Coronavirus, for the perspective it is about 15% of Singapore’s confirmed Coronavirus case. This particular “awakening” of Coronavirus put questions to experts whether or not it will cause the case to once again explode in the Singaporean society which can also affect the whole world. It also puts the economic condition as a factor whether you are protected against the virus or not, since the higher income citizen will definitely get a better health treatment care than those with lower income which are the foreign workers that work in ports and shipping sector. Singapore’s wealth gap turns into a reference for countries to analyze their healthcare system and better optimize it so it would become more widely available.
In summary, these respective countries have one thing in common, swift decisions win the battle. They didn’t wait for the case to get big then take actions, they started being precautious from the beginning. Patience is the name of the game; some people are just being stubborn and ignorant that they just went out and not giving a single care about the repercussion if they got infected and transmit even more viruses. These kinds of people probably haven’t realized that we actually need to take this quarantine more seriously and all of this is for a better cause. These countries who succeeded in putting the virus behind cages also succeeded in making their citizen work together in putting an effort to reduce the spread and flatten the curve. We don’t need expensive meds, overworked staff, crazy hoarding, or supermarket “battle royale” when we all can keep ourselves from making a huge crowd where the virus can spread easily. To put simply, right now our task is rather simple, to stay at home, avoid physical gatherings, eat healthily, and make sure to work out!