Experts say tailored restrictions lead to some Asian countries’ better control of pandemic

BEIJING, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) — As temperature continues to drop in most parts of the globe, activating the coronavirus, many countries have entered into a new round of lockdowns and curfews with COVID-19 cases surging and hospitals overwhelmed.

Amid the new wave of the pandemic, Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan and Singapore have comparatively performed better in controlling the virus, which experts attribute to efforts that tailored prevention systems to each nation’s conditions and the guidance of scientific and experts’ advice.

Epidemiological investigations contributed to the relative success of epidemic prevention and control in South Korea, said Dong-Hyun Kim, professor from Hallym Graduate School of Health Sciences and president of the Korean Society of Epidemiology.

Once a case is confirmed, the epidemic prevention authority will quickly trace the close contacts through epidemiological investigations and put them in a 14-day isolation, thus blocking the transmission chain, Kim told Xinhua.

According to Kang Sung Kyu, professor of Gachon University’s College of Medicine, South Korea’s implementation of a flexible social distancing policy is another contributing factor.

The South Korean government persistently reminds people to abide by social distancing measures to reduce travel, trips and gatherings, Kyu said.

Though Japan has not adopted measures such as massive tests, it has set a higher detection threshold focusing on aggregated infections and severe cases, so as to relieve the pressure on the medical system.

According to the hospitalization policy revised by the Japanese government in August, asymptomatic cases and mild patients will be isolated in their residences or government-designated hotels so as to control the number of hospitalizations.

Plans to avoid holiday crowds are already on the table in Japan as the government calls on companies to extend the New Year holiday by about one week in a bid to mitigate people crowding or on travel.

In Singapore, where medical resources and the testing capacity are limited, the government has focused its efforts on groups such as foreign workers, institutions such as nursing homes and kindergartens, and staff having to contact many people such as food delivery workers, said Koh Chin Yee, president of Singapore’s South Seas Society.

Given the asymptomatic transmission and incubation period of the virus, people at higher risk of infection need to be regularly tested every 7 to 14 days, Koh told Xinhua.

In addition, technologies played a big part in pandemic prevention.

Kim said that the COVID-19 test kits were approved by the authorities soon after they were developed in early January. Thus more institutions are able to detect the virus massively and swiftly.

South Korea, Kyu said, has adopted a system of tracing, testing, quarantine and treatment measures and is allowed to conduct infection tracing via people’s mobile phones and credit card records based on laws and regulations on infectious diseases revised in 2015.

In Japan, many commercial facilities are equipped with automatic body temperature detectors, while in Singapore, tracing appliances and equipments developed by the government have been put into use so that close contacts of the virus can be detected within two days.

People’s self-restriction also matters a lot in prevention efforts in those countries, the experts said, citing measures like regular hand washing, masks wearing, social distancing and ventilation of the environment.

Although the number of community cases has recently remained in single digits or zero growth, few people refuse to wear masks or violate the official restrictions, Koh said, adding that the prevention measures are supported and understood by the public.

As of Thursday, the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 27,942 in South Korea, 113,808 in Japan — not including those connected to a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo early this year, and 58,102 in Singapore.

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