Countries shift approach from harsh to soft to tame second wave

July 11, 2020 0 By FM

Many countries are now trying out alternative, “less punishing” strategies instead of draconian and economically damaging measures like community lockdowns to stall the spread of fresh outbreaks, reports said.

Countries are looking at more flexible measures such as targeted closedowns, intensive testing and monitoring, instant response by the authorities, stricter border vigilance as well as increasing the awareness about the essentiality of maintaining social distancing norms.

For obvious reasons, they are more worried this time about protecting jobs and the economy based on their assumption that the virus is something they are going to have to live with.

Japan, which witnessed over 250 new infections in June, wants to run the economy at speed, while controlling infection risks using less-restrictive approaches that put an equal emphasis on protecting jobs and life. 

The country has recently introduced a contact tracing app to alert users if they had been in touch with a COVID-19 positive individual. Japan’s railway operators have also launched an app and a website to inform commuters how crowded a particular train is at any given time.

The country has also decided to open its borders, clubs and bars, even though citizens are advised to continue to avoid closed, crowded and close-contact activities.

South Korea, which controlled the first wave of infection without resorting to a tight lockdown, has advised people to carry two types of masks — a surgical mask for normal environments and an N95 respirator mask to be used in crowded settings to tackle the second wave.

While strongly recommending social distancing measures, the country has added new guidelines as soon as it reported dozens of new cases in mid-June.

Health authorities in Soul advised companies to have employees sit in a zigzag fashion and to keep windows open to increase ventilation and to turn off air-conditioners every two hours. The country has also set a target of keeping infections below 50 a day.

The UK is going for more targeted shutdowns around clusters of infections.

According to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, local shutdowns are adequate to control fresh outbreaks. He referred to the strategy as Whac-A-Mole, an arcade game, which calls for focusing on necessary preventive measures on the spot, rather than going back to the national lockdown strategy even as the country faces the prospect of a second wave.

Germany too has opted for shutting regions or municipalities that register more than 50 new infections per 100,000 people over a period of seven days, after 1,500 new infections were reported from a meat processing plant in Gütersloh. For this, the European country is using measures such as school closings and full quarantines, along with mass testing.

Even China, which has been criticised for the heavy-handed controls in Wuhan, went for a targeted approach to tame the virus when a second-wave broke out in Beijing on June 12.

The country carried out mass testing of around 2.3 million residents in a week after shutting down a market and the residential communities surrounding it, instead of locking up the capital city. Beijing’s neighbourhoods remained open as usual, unlike in Wuhan.