Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore show why we should not let down our guard

I confess to being rather obsessed by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Centre, which seems to be the best and most authoritative guide to the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I go there most mornimgs for a daily fix of data and depression.
It's interesting to see how China and South Korea are about the only countries that have been able to really flatten their curve and bring their incidence of new cases right down. Most other countries, including Canada I have to say, are still showing steep graphs and increasing daily cases, in some countries exponentially so.
It's also interesting, and not a little salutary, to look at what is happening recently in some of the poster countries like Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, which used strict quarantine laws and high tech monitoring to jump on the epidemic early, and very successfully kept their case load down. Their totals are still relatively low but, since mid-March, are showing signs of an inexorable increase. This is partly due to the gradual repatriation of citizens living abroad in the last couple of weeks, but one has to wonder whether that explains away all of the sudden increases.
Hong Kong specifically has seen its case load increase dramatically in the last week, almost doubling, albeit from a pretty low base. It seems to be an object lesson in not letting your guard down, as Hong Kong saw fit to relax its early strong anti-virus measures near the beginning of March, allowing people to go to work, use the subway, celebrate weddings, gather in larger groups, etc. This seems to have blown up in their face somewhat, as they now face a second wave of infections, and are having to double down on new, even more draconian, quarantine rules.
The moral of the story? Even if it looks like the coast is clear, don't relax, and don't let down your guard.

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