This transmission electron microscope image shows the coronavirus virus that causes COVID-19. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
University High School

Opinion: We must model China and South Korea’s efforts to stop Coronavirus

Whether you are watching the TV, reading the newspaper, or just conversing with your family and friends, the word Wuhan seems to inevitably find its way in any of those situations. But, why?

Wuhan, the capital of Central China’s Hubei Province, is speculated to be where the infamous disease COVID-19, or coronavirus as it is colloquially known, seems to have originated.

More specifically, a wet market, a street market with both live and dead animals, in Wuhan is considered to have been the source of the first transmission of COVID-19 to the human population.

From then on, COVID-19 has spread like a wildfire. There are 782,365 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 37,582 deaths as of March 31, according to the L.A. Times.

According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, close to 180 countries around the world have reported this disease’s presence. As the numbers continue to rise, nations are taking more and more aggressive actions in an attempt to combat this disease.

So, what has been done so far?

While many people look upon China negatively given their association with the origination of the disease, China has had arguably the most aggressive and effective response to the disease that we have seen thus far.

Since Jan. 23, Wuhan and neighboring cities in the Hubei Province have been on full lockdown. This has affected over fifty million people, equivalent to the population of Texas and Florida combined.

Furthermore, two new hospitals (Huoshenshan and Leishenshan Hospital) were built in Wuhan in just a matter of days, specifically to deal with the large influx of those afflicted with COVID-19. Combined, these two hospitals added 2,600 new hospital beds.

A unique and innovative solution the Chinese government implemented to monitor the spread of the disease involved two of the most popular apps in the world: AliPay and WeChat.

AliPay, a mobile payment platform, is used by around 633 million people from mainland China according to the China Internet Network Information Center. WeChat, China’s most popular messaging platform, is used by 1 billion Chinese people according to CNBC.

The government used these apps to track the movement of people known to be infected with the disease. A color-coding system was used to designate a person’s health status and was checked by guards at public transportation centers to mitigate the spread of the disease.

Another country we may look to as a model for success in containing the outbreak is South Korea. While China was able to control the spread of the disease through large-scale lockdowns, South Korea’s key to success was in its extensive testing infrastructure.

Unlike the U.S., which has conducted close to 74 tests per million people, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the South Koreans have conducted more than 270,000 per million. This has helped drastically in fighting the disease and the numbers clearly show this.

South Korea, on March 17, reported only 74 new cases. Compare this with the nine hundred nine new cases on February 29 and it is evident that something is working.

Now, we as Americans would object to any sort of tracking by the government, like China did, as an invasion of privacy. Some may also argue that being forced to quarantine may be a restriction of their rights as a person living in a free and democratic society.

However, what we must realize is that it is up to us, as citizens of a democracy that serves the greater good, to practice self-quarantine and social distancing measures. Everyone has a responsibility to protect not only themselves but their family members and the greater society.

In the iconic song “We Are The World” by Michael Jackson and U.S.A. for Africa, Jackson sings that “change can only come when we stand together as one.”

The destiny of the future depends on our collective actions today. Let’s learn and work together to take action to ensure that brighter future.