Hong Kong has joined Singapore in not only banning foreign arrivals but banning transit passenger arrivals, too, after several foreigners arriving there tested positive for COVID-19. A doctor screening inbound passengers at the airport has tested positive as well there.
Hong Kong’s confirmed cases have spiked – to about 350 – and it’s still possible to eat in a restaurant there though they’re banning serving alcohol because, in the words of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam,
“In restaurants, meals can still be served [without alcohol] … But in bars, people sometimes get intimate after drinking, and this will raise the risk of cross-infection.”
In Hong Kong those under quarantine order wear electronic bracelets. In the U.S. we aren’t even doing ‘test and trace’. Even moderate symptom people are having difficulty getting tests, and those who test positive report that they can’t even get advice on when they’re free of the virus (so may go out and spread) and don’t have their contacts traced. We also lack masks – even with Facebook donating 720,000 from their reserve (Facebook has a strategic face mask reserve! And fortunately it may be possible to re-sterilize masks).
We’re not following the model of Southeast Asian countries that are having success containing the virus, and is the reason we effectively need to shut down the economy and isolate people to slow its spread. That is a huge failure of government disease control during this crisis.
Meanwhile there are a shortage of masks, and the CDC continues to insist masks are ineffective (they also insisted that pre-symptomatic spread of the virus was virtually non-existent, in fact it appears to be a factor and moderate symptomatic spread bigger still where people don’t know they have the virus; the CDC has modified the language of its guidance).
However we know that masks have been credited by the U.S. government for eliminated influenza outbreak in Japan (note this is not specific to coronavirus). And there’s some evidence that even a badly fitted N95 mask seems to be effective in reducing coronavirus spread.
South Korea has largely stopped its spread of COVID-19. There are fewer than 200 confirmed cases reported in Taiwan. As seriously as Singapore is taking the issue, and with Singapore Airlines cutting 96% of its capacity, there are fewer than 500 cases in Singapore.
In the U.S. we’re suffering the economic and social consequences of the virus. The fewest number of airline passengers have been traveling in the U.S. in 9 years and numbers are shrinking further. Restaurants, bars, gyms, and myriad other businesses are failing. And yet we aren’t yet taking the steps to actually stop spread.
Sixty three years ago a new flu ripped through Asia and there was a vaccine in the U.S. within months. Fully factoring the risks we need to accelerate the availability of potential COVID-19 vaccines because we aren’t out of the woods for years without one.