Athens, Beijing, Salvador, Bangkok, Tokyo Support for the Federal Government’s measures against the coronavirus is high, and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity is undisputed. Also because the Germans like themselves in the role of Corona world champions, who have so far got the pandemic under control better than anyone else.
However, this picture is only partially correct. A number of countries have at least coped with certain aspects of the pandemic better than Germany. The Handelsblatt correspondents give an overview.
The number of new corona infections is also currently rising in Greece, albeit from a relatively low level: So far, 27,300 people have been infected in the country with its 10.7 million inhabitants. 534 patients have died of Covid-19. The deaths amount to 50 per million inhabitants. That is less than half of the 119 deaths per million inhabitants in Germany.
Greece mastered the first wave in spring better than most other European countries. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis listened to the experts and had contact restrictions introduced at an early stage, until the extensive lockdown on March 22nd. In terms of measures, Greece was about two weeks ahead of the other EU countries, although it had very few cases at the time.
During the pandemic, the Greeks showed a quality that is rarely trusted in the rest of Europe: discipline. The horror of overcrowded hospitals and mortuaries from neighboring Italy also contributed to this. Because the overwhelming majority of the population followed the restrictions and compliance was closely monitored by the police, the curve of nine infections flattened again at the beginning of April.
But it has been rising steeply again since August. A record was set on Wednesday with 865 reported cases. It seems that younger Greeks in particular have become more careless in recent weeks. Probably because of the good crisis management in spring, vigilance decreased in summer.
After the government issued uniform restrictions across the country in the spring, in the second wave it relies on regional and local measures as well as intensive follow-up of the new cases in order to identify and isolate sources of infection. This also serves to ensure that particularly vulnerable population groups are tested, such as migrants, nursing home workers and hospital staff. Gerd Höhler
China: nationwide tests
Getting tested for Corona has been an easy undertaking in China for several months. If you need a negative test, just go to the nearest hospital. In Beijing, for example, four containers are set up side by side in a large state hospital.
At the first window you give your personal data, show your passport and give the telephone number. You pay at the second window, at the third you get a number that you give to the employee at the fourth window. Open your mouth, put the chopsticks in, done. Without an appointment, without waiting. The result can be picked up the next day.
In the past few months, China has expanded its test capacities more massively than almost any other country. According to the Chinese National Health Commission and the Ministry of Industry, the number of testing institutes increased from 2081 in early March to 4804 in June. The technical staff involved in the tests increased from 13,900 in early March to 38,000 at the end of July. While 1.26 million people per day could be tested at the beginning of March, according to government figures it was 4.84 million at the end of July.
The mass tests that are carried out on new local outbreaks are also very comprehensive. Just last week, the local government in the east Chinese port city of Qingdao said it had tested more than ten million people within a few days because a few new cases had been reported.
There had previously been mass tests of this type in several other cities. To this end, the authorities usually set up thousands of temporary test stands throughout the city within a very short time. The samples are then not all tested individually, but rather pooled in groups of five or ten. Only when this test comes back positive will the group members be tested again individually to find the infected person.
Uruguay: exemplary crisis management
When the first corona infected person appeared in Uruguay on March 13 of this year, the authorities were armed: In January, the Universidad de la República in Montevideo had already started to develop its own diagnostics together with the local Pasteur Institute. Personal connections to Chinese researchers and to Europe made this possible.
When the virus came, Uruguay was ready. For the country, about half the size of Germany and with the population of Berlin, that was the salvation: Uruguay has open borders with all neighboring countries that can hardly be controlled.
President Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou’s government had been in office for just two weeks, but it was quick to react: it encouraged people to stay at home – on a voluntary basis. She also immediately started with mass tests and presented an app that Uruguayans can use to obtain information and contact authorities. The fourth version is now on the market, in which Google and Apple also contributed.
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With its exemplary global crisis management, Uruguay has the lowest infections and deaths in Latin America today, although the neighboring countries Argentina and Brazil are badly affected by the pandemic. With 2,560 infected and 51 dead, the country has a Covid death rate of 1.5 deaths per 100,000 residents, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Uruguay is particularly successful in the school system. All schools were closed for just one month from March. But as early as April, the school authorities began to gradually reopen them. First the one in the country, then the one in Montevideo. All students were present again on June 29th, around three months after the start of the pandemic – while in neighboring countries there are still no face-to-face classes.
Right from the start, pupils and teachers were connected to one another via the central education platform CREA, which was soon supplemented by efficient video conference software. Around 100,000 PCs and laptops were distributed to those in need. The telecom companies allowed data to be transferred from the platform free of charge.
Thailand: masks open and borders closed
It didn’t look anything but good for Thailand at first: On January 13, the authorities reported the first coronavirus case in the country. For the first time, the new disease was detected outside of China.
In view of the around one million Chinese tourists who came to Thailand every month at the time, there was great concern that the holiday country would become the next hotspot. The opposite has happened: a total of 3700 Covid-19 cases have been reported in Thailand so far – within nine months, less than a third as many as in Germany on Thursday alone.
In retrospect, it can be said that the country has done a lot right – especially its population and the private sector. Already at the beginning of the year hardly anyone took to the streets without a face mask in the capital Bangkok. This happened without government coercion, but with the support of companies: supermarket chains and shopping centers only allowed mask wearers into the shops.
While the behavior of the population has apparently prevented the first widespread wave of contagion, the government closed the border to a large extent to ensure that there was no new outbreak. Since the end of March, only Thai citizens and a few foreigners have been allowed to enter – and have to be in monitored quarantine for 14 days after arrival.
The collapse of the tourism industry is the high price Thailand is paying for pandemic response. But the positive sides are also obvious: only 59 dead, hardly any sick – and the country does not have to fear a new lockdown.
Operation in schools, factories, bars and restaurants has returned to everyday life. The willingness to wear a mask remains high. According to pollster YouGov, more than 80 percent of Thais still go outside with mouth and nose protection – almost 20 percentage points more than in Germany. Mathias Peer
Japan: land in the hygiene of society as a whole
In quarantine, Japan may be a liberal runaway in Asia. Those who enter and have to be quarantined can still go shopping themselves. In return, the country shines in terms of overall social hygiene: Almost all Japanese voluntarily wear masks and often disinfect their hands.
For the Japanese, the step towards covering their faces was natural. Even before the pandemic, the Japanese put on masks, either to protect others from colds or to protect themselves from pollen in the event of allergies. In 2018, the population of 126 million used 5.5 billion disposable masks.
In addition, authorities and companies often made hand disinfectants available before the crisis. Because protection against infectious diseases has long been high on the priority list of the authorities in the country’s densely populated megacities. The system was coupled with a traditional test system that focused on tracing clusters.
This hygiene and the voluntary compliance with official requests for social distancing by companies and private individuals have so far been sufficient to stabilize several smaller virus waves again – even without the use of high-tech as in the equally democratic South Korea or Taiwan, which is via access to health or mobile Position data could encroach on the privacy of patients and contact persons.
There was no controversial discussion either in Japan or in the other two East Asian democracies. Barbara Zollmann, the head of the German Chamber of Commerce Abroad, gives the cross-border reason: “Measures that are seen as restrictions in Germany are perceived as security here.” Because people were concerned about their own health as well as about growth and jobs.
And those who deviate from this mass, especially in Japan, bring social pressure back into the limb. In Japan, official orders to close department stores were not legally binding, even during the emergency. But companies often responded before the state officially asked for it. Martin Koelling
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