Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan Are Fighting Second Wave Of Coronavirus
Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan are facing a ‘second wave’ of new cases of coronavirus. Most of the cases are imported, while few cases occurred due to local transmission. One reason cited is the clustering of migrant workers in small dormitories. The rise in new cases has largely been attributed to nationals of these countries returning from abroad especially from the U.S.
As the new cases emerged, Hong Kong instituted new travel rules and closed public places. Singapore, which announced on Monday a record jump of 1,462 confirmed cases, has imposed a lockdown until May 4 and closed schools, as reported in Reuters. Taiwan while partially open, has adopted stricter measures. On the other hand, Japan has declared a nationwide state of emergency, reported the BBC.
When coronavirus was wreaking havoc globally, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore,and Taiwan were able to curb the coronavirus’ growth while keeping their economies largely open. Some of the measures they took were: contact tracing, widespread testing, and travel restrictions. These robust measures paid off initially, preventing complete lockdown, or economic shutdown. A new policy – “Suppression and Lift” – is being tested in these countries.
“Suppression and Lift” seems to be the new normal, a policy measure to curb growth of infections and keep the economy afloat. What it means is when there is a surge in cases of coronavirus, governments could adopt stringent restrictive measures such as social distancing and banning of public gatherings. When these measures prove effective reducing the transmission cases, measures are taken to resume normality in social and economic activities. Gabriel Leung, an infectious disease epidemiologist and dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, described this policy measure, assuming that lockdowns cannot last forever.
As long as there is threat of resurgence, the balancing of social and economic costs would remain key issues that all nations would have to grapple with until an effective treatment or vaccine is developed.
Can “Suppression and Lift” policy be enough to quell new outbreaks of the virus and be a normative policy option? This policy requires restrictions to be applied and relaxed as cases increase. However, according to Kenji Shibuya, a Population Health Professor at King’s College London, “even if you manage to control a local outbreak, once you lift the lockdown, there’s a high risk of resurgence,” quoted The Economist.
In Pakistan, “Smart Lockdowns” have been suggested but their efficacy remains untested.