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SCMP on COVID-19 Approaches in East vs West

Nov. 21, 2020 (EIRNS)—South China Morning Post, based in Hong Kong, asked today in regard to responses to COVID-19: “Why are Western countries like the U.S. and Britain still not learning from Asia’s success?”

Although there is currently a “third wave” of infections in South Korea and Japan, it is minuscule compared to the surge in Europe and the U.S., and the response is not lockdowns, but isolation of the area of breakout and extensive contact tracing, as has been done in Asia from the beginning, starting in China.

“With locked-down Britons only able to watch in envy as South Koreans party in karaoke bars,” SCMP writes, “the benefits of Asian responses to Covid-19 are clear to see. So why hasn’t the West copied the tech-heavy approach? Is it really fears over privacy or differences in culture—or is it just plain arrogance?”

The article takes no note of the relatively modern, excellent healthcare systems across East Asia, nor of the systematic shutdown of such systems across the U.S. and Europe, which obviously plays a significant role in the failure to counter the virus in those countries.

On the difference in approach, they write that in South Korea, “health officials use warrantless access to phone records, credit card transactions and CCTV footage to track down close contacts of suspect cases. Text-message alerts tell members of the general public of the past movements of anonymized patients—even down to specific businesses and restaurants. The tech-heavy strategy, combined with strict quarantine, mass testing and widespread public adherence to mask-wearing and social distancing, has been credited with bringing a major outbreak in February under control and preventing a large-scale resurgence since then.”

South Korea has had only 500 deaths with a per-capita death rate about 77 times lower than that of the U.S., SCMP reports, and stating that the expected economic decline will be 1%, compared to the U.K.’s 10%. Taiwan has also used phone tracking, data analytics and travel histories to “quickly identify cases and enforce quarantine procedures in a strategy that has eschewed strict lockdown measures.”

The author, John Power, quotes various professors pointing to cultural differences, “suggesting individualistic Westerners have been less conscientious about not spreading the virus and are more concerned about the privacy implications of technological solutions.”

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