Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Coronavirus Controls Should Worry the World

After an increase in cases linked to international travelers, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and other places that seemed to have the epidemic under control have imposed stricter measures.

In China, international flights have been cut so low that Chinese students abroad wonder when they will be able to return home. In Singapore, recently returning citizens are required to share their phone location data with authorities every day to demonstrate that they adhere to government-ordered quarantines.

In Taiwan, a man who had traveled to Southeast Asia was fined $ 33,000 for sneaking into a club when he was supposed to be locked up in his home. In Hong Kong, a 13-year-old girl, who was spotted at a restaurant wearing a tracking bracelet to monitor those in quarantine, was followed, filmed, and subsequently embarrassed online.

Across Asia, countries and cities that seemed to have controlled the corona virus epidemic are suddenly tightening their borders and imposing stricter containment measures, fearful of a wave of new infections imported from elsewhere.
The movements foreshadow a troubling signal for the United States, Europe and the rest of the world still struggling against a growing outbreak: any country's success with containment could be tenuous, and the world could remain in a kind of indefinite blockade.

Even as the number of new cases begins to drop, travel barriers and bans in many places can persist until a vaccine or treatment is found. Otherwise, the risk is that the infection could be reintroduced within its borders, especially given the prevalence of asymptomatic people who could unknowingly carry the virus.

Following a recent increase in cases involving international travelers, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan have banned foreigners from entering in recent days. Japan has banned visitors from most of Europe, and is considering denying entry to travelers from countries like the United States. South Korea imposed stricter controls, requiring foreigners to quarantine government facilities for 14 days upon arrival.

"Countries have really been struggling to implement their own domestic solutions, and national solutions are insufficient for a transnational global health problem," said Kristi Govella, assistant professor of Asian studies at the University of Hawaii, Manoa.

"Even countries that have been relatively successful in managing the pandemic are as safe as the weakest links in the system," he said, adding that in the absence of cooperation between countries, "closing borders is one of the ways in which individual governments can control the situation. "

The virus, which emerged in Asia and spread to the West, is in danger of rebounding. Citizens who were concerned about the outbreaks in Europe and the United States rushed home after meeting at the new epicenters of the pandemic.

Almost immediately, countries and cities in Asia began to see an increase in new cases, often spotting infected passengers at airports as they underwent health screenings. Hong Kong, which had been reporting new single digit daily cases, suddenly saw new cases rise to 65 in one day. In Japan, where infections have remained relatively controlled, cases began to rise in Tokyo last month when travelers returned from abroad.

To try to stop the influx of infections, governments cracked down on their borders.

South Korea, which has been praised globally for flattening the curve quickly after an early explosive spike in infections, initially required travelers from some countries to be quarantined. This week expanded the list to cover the entire world.

Japan started by quarantining travelers, but now it directly bans travelers from most of Europe. He is discussing more bans, even for travelers to the United States.

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