How have some countries stopped the Coronavirus?

While the Coronavirus outbreak is just beginning in Latin America, some of the countries where it started are already saying goodbye to it.

Man in a biological suit holding a sign that says 'Coronavirus'.

Intensive and random testing has been one of the most effective measures. / Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

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Leer en español: ¿Cómo han frenado algunos países el Coronavirus?

In the last days of 2019, the first cases of a strange virus that began in China and of which little or nothing was known were found. Thus, the spread was rapid, and China and nearby countries did not know how to respond. The creation of two hospitals in less than two weeks in the area where the virus started showed that China was ready to end it. Three months later, an emotional image was revealed where health sector workers celebrated that all the patients in a hospital had been discharged.

Meanwhile, countries like Italy and Spain are beginning to despair due to full hospitals, lack of containment and an increase in the dead and the infected. And, on the other hand, Latin America is afraid of reaching these conditions, so it is looking for alternatives to stop the virus from growing.

Some countries, especially those neighboring China and China itself, managed to contain the virus so that three months after its inception, they have already exceeded the peak of infections and it is expected that the infections will run their natural course.

Last Wednesday, for example, was the first day that China did not report any new cases of local contagion. Although there are still new cases, the fact that these do not come from an internal source opens the possibilities to stop the outbreak soon.

The first measure that many countries have decided to take is closing the borders. With this and the prohibition of air, sea and land traffic, new cases have been prevented from arriving from the outside and governments are able to try to control those who are already inside. This was the case of Russia that, despite being a neighbor of China and a great nation with at least 144 million inhabitants, so far has only reported a little more than 150 infected people and one death, as of this edition. 

Also read: The COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic has a natural origin

Although it has been denounced that perhaps the Kremlin has not been transparent with the information, if it were true, it would be demonstrating the capacity that border closures can have. Many Latin American countries acted under this same logic, a region that is just beginning to feel the outbreak.

The Chinese, a Nation that had to respond on the fly opted for a quarantine. When the cases had risen to 600, Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began, and other cities in the country closed. Since then, China has become a ghost town and at least 60 million people have been unable to leave their homes.

This was a preventive measure, but also the Chinese government, known to be authoritarian, chose to isolate everyone that was sick. The purpose was to prevent those who were already infected from infecting others. For this, it built two hospitals and adapted hotels to be 'contagion centers'. This was denounced by doctors and other people at the time because overcrowding began to be seen in these places and hospitals exceeded their capacities. However, the WHO stated that both measures are necessary, both quarantine in cities and social isolation as well as the isolation of people who are already infected.

South Korea was for several days one of the countries outside of China where a progressive increase in cases was beginning to be reported and, together with Iran and Italy, was one of those that experienced the first health crisis. However, with the passing of the months they managed to dissipate the increase and today, although they continue to be one of the countries with the most cases, the number has stopped increasing significantly.

The measure chosen by this Asian country was intensive testing. The tests began to be carried out to a large extent on citizens, not only those who presented symptoms such as high fever and difficulty breathing. According to La Silla Vacía, 10 to 15 thousand tests were carried out daily, allowing the virus to be detected in asymptomatic people and thus allowing the authorities to act effectively. With the amount of evidence, the authorities have been able to calculate the areas with the highest flow of cases and create the appropriate controls, which has slowed the increase in cases.

Both measures, according to the WHO, are necessary to control the virus but they will not be enough to stop it, much less to cure those who are already positive. Furthermore, these models may not be sustainable in the longer term. Quarantine would affect the economy to an irreversible extent if done for an unlimited time. Testing, on the other hand, would be costly on a large scale, and there is no assurance that a person who once tested negative will not test positive later. However, these methods could be a start for countries that today begin to see the need to take drastic measures.

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