COVID-19: Measures in China may not work in other countries
Chinese hospitals several weeks ago were full of patients infected with the new coronavirus, now the beds are empty. The number reported each day has plummeted in recent weeks.
The Chinese government authorized WHO foreign scientists to join Chinese scientists in China to study the status of the virus in 5 cities and the response to the measures. The findings surprised visiting scientists. "I thought there was no way his new numbers were real," said epidemiologist Tim Eckmanns of the Koch Institute.
But the report is not wrong. "China's measures to stem the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has rapidly changed the course of a deadly epidemic," he said. "This drop in COVID-19 cases across China is real."
The question now is whether the rest of the world can learn from the experience of China and the total quarantine, the massive blockades and technological surveillance that the Chinese government imposed would work for other countries. "Thousands of people in China did not get the coronavirus from these measures," said Bruce Aylward, Canadian of the WHO. Many scientists consider these measures extreme so other countries may hesitate to use them.
The most dramatic and controversial measure was the confinement to Wuhan and nearby cities in Hubei province, which put at least 50 million people in mandatory quarantine since January 23. In other areas of China, people underwent voluntary quarantine and were monitored by neighborhood leaders in each neighborhood.
Chinese authorities built 2 hospitals in Wuhan in just over a week to treat only cases of people infected with the coronavirus. Health personnel from all over China were dispatched to these outbreak centers. The government made an unprecedented effort to trace contacts of confirmed cases. In Wuhan alone, more than 1,800 teams of 5 or more people tracked thousands of contacts. Social distancing measures were implemented, canceling sporting events, closing theaters, schools, businesses, and stores. Everyone who left their homes had to wear a mask.
With the AliPay and Wechat apps that every person in China uses to make payments instead of using cash, it helped enforce the restrictions, as the government could track the movement of people and even prevent people with confirmed infections from traveling. Every person had something akin to a traffic light system; mobile phones were color-coded green, yellow, or red; those that designate the state of health of the person. With this the guards at the train stations and other checkpoints could know who to let through.
Public life was practically eliminated. Eventually the people who got infected spread only to family members. Once everyone in an apartment was exposed, the virus had no way to spread and the chain of transmission ended.