Asian countries are using their experiences with past disease outbreaks to deal with recent increases in COVID-19 cases.
Among the nations that reported rising cases since mid-November are Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. Health officials say the increases are likely linked to cooler weather and a rise in citizens flying home from more heavily infected countries.
Facing rising numbers, Asian health officials have been able to limit the spread of COVID-19 more effectively than the United States and some other nations.
Governments have brought back some restrictions, but left most businesses open. They have also avoided full public lockdowns.
Instead, officials have continued measures such as quarantining sick people and tracing their contacts. A quarantine is a period of time during which an infected person is kept away from others to prevent a disease from spreading.
Health officials also put in place new social distancing restrictions and kept international borders closed to foreign visitors.
The Lowy Institute research group in Australia issued a report on anti-pandemic measures throughout Southeast Asia. It said nations found success in limiting the virus by placing “health above economic concerns.” Officials had also been effective in producing public communication campaigns, as well as “enforcing early border controls and mandating behavior change,” the institute said.
People across Asia do not usually resist government health orders, even when no one is around to enforce them. Locals say this is because people want to stay healthy. And community wellbeing is often seen as more important than individual liberty.
“If someone in your family just (traveled) somewhere, then all of your neighbors will know. And if something happens to you, the neighbors themselves will tell about your situation to the police or (health officials),” said Phuong Hong, a 40-year-old hotel worker from Ho Chi Minh City.
The COVID-19 situation affected her income when her hours were cut because of major drops in Vietnam’s travel industry. Still, she praises the government for “taking action very fast” so the country’s lockdown could end in April.
Since the start of the health crisis, Vietnam has had 1,366 virus cases. In November, though, officials twice reported rare daily infection totals above 20. Media reported the daily increases were linked to a Vietnam Airlines flight worker who violated a home quarantine order after arriving from Japan.
In Taiwan, the Central Epidemic Command Center announced on December 1 that everyone in shopping centers, sports centers and some schools were required to wear face coverings. Many people were already using the coverings.
Taiwan has had 716 total cases. During two days in December, there were more than 20 cases each day - all of which the government said were “imported” from abroad. Since March, border closings and strict contact tracing rules have not stopped.
Vietnam and Taiwan continue to export manufactured products internationally.
In South Korea, cases began topping 500 per day in late November for the first time since March. As a result, Korean officials planned stronger social distancing restrictions after easing them a month earlier to help the economy.
COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong began climbing from November 19 to between 50 and 100 or more per day. Nearly 7,000 people have been infected in the territory since the start of the health crisis. Hong Kong’s government suspended in-person school classes for younger students last month and now limits restaurant seating to just one or two people.
Adam Wielowieyski is a 40-year-old Briton who works at Hong Kong’s stock exchange. He said most people there are used to the government’s control measures and do not resist restrictions.
I'm Armen Kassabian.
Ralph Jennings at the Voice of America reported this story. Armen Kassabian adapted it for VOA Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.
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Words in This Story
outbreaks – n. a sudden start or increase of a disease
lockdowns – n. when the government tells people to stay home in isolation and not to leave their homes
tracing – v. a process of finding who may have come into contact with an infected person
mandating – v. an official order to do something
liberty – n. the state or condition of people who are able to act and speak freely