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Illustration by Security Management

Some Nations Show Signs of Success Stopping COVID-19 Spread

While coronavirus cases continue to grow at a rapid rate in some regions, other parts of the world are having far greater success in controlling the spread of the virus.

In Asia, Thailand has gone almost seven weeks without a case of local transmission. The nation initially braced for an increase in cases after foreign visitors travelled to the country from countries that were hard hit by the virus. But Thailand has managed to keep confirmed cases low, with just 3,240 instances and 58 deaths.

“Thailand’s low rate of infection appears to be shared by other countries in the Mekong River basin,” according to analysis by The New York Times. “Vietnam has not recorded a single death and has logged about three months without a case of community transmission. Myanmar has confirmed 336 cases of the virus, Cambodia 166, and Laos just 19.”

Health experts are unsure why exactly case numbers are lower in this region, but some suspect it may be because of cultural practices that limit physical interaction.

“I don’t think it is about immunity or genetics alone,” said Dr. Taweesin Visanuyothin, the COVID-19 spokesman for Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health who spoke to the Times. “It has to do with culture. Thai people do not have body contact when we greet each other. This is how the countries in the Mekong region greet each other as well.”

New Zealand has also had success stopping the spread of the virus within its borders, virtually eliminating it in the nation by instigating a hard shutdown early on in the pandemic. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern issued a warning on Wednesday, however, that New Zealand should be prepared to take steps to eliminate new outbreaks as the virus continues to thrive outside its borders.

“No system is 100 percent fool proof and around the world we are seeing even the most rigorous measures being tested by the virus,” Ardern said.

Currently Brazil, India, and the United States are being hit hard by the virus, which continues to spread rapidly throughout the nations. Brazil reported on Thursday that its confirmed cases exceeded 2 million, with 76,000 deaths; India said it reached more than 1 million confirmed cases, with 25,000 deaths.

“Governments are frantically trying to prevent and put down fresh outbreaks and keep their economies running as the pandemic accelerates in some parts of the world and threatens to come roaring back in others,” according to the Associated Press. “Worldwide, confirmed cases numbered more than 13.8 million Friday and COVID-19 deaths totaled more than 590,000.”

The United States recorded a daily record of 75,600 new cases on Thursday, almost double the number of confirmed cases per day on June 24. Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Texas set single-day case records on Thursday, and Florida, South Carolina, and Texas set single-day death records on Thursday, as well.

“Seven others reached death records this week: Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Utah,” according to the Times. “Many of the states that reopened early are the ones seeing the biggest increases, while New York, the country’s hardest-hit city, has seen a 64 percent drop since June 1.”

Despite the increase in cases, some U.S. state governors have been slow to respond or issued only limited virus prevention measures such as requirements for facial coverings in public. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield issued a statement earlier this week that suggested everyone should wear a facial covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus—particularly when used universally within a community setting,” Redfield said. “All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”

Some states, including Florida and Georgia, have ignored this guidance. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp even went so far as to issue an executive order prohibiting local governments in the state from mandating face coverings in public. To follow through on that order, Kemp’s administration filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging Atlanta’s face covering requirement.

“The governor had previously tried to ban cities and counties from passing any coronavirus restrictions that went further than Georgia’s guidelines,” according to The Washington Post. “But many cities defied him by passing mask mandates anyway, arguing that it was essential to flatten the cure. Kemp’s orders have ‘strongly encouraged’ masks.”

With some U.S. state governors being slow to act, many major retailers are adopting facial covering requirements for customers. CVS, Kohls, Kroger, Target, and Walmart all announced this week that they will require customers to wear masks inside all stores. The National Retail Federation is also recommending that all retailers issue a similar requirement.

“Most major retailers and grocers have hesitated to enact their own mask mandates for customers during the pandemic, partly over fears of antagonizing shoppers who refuse to wear them,” according to CNN. “Retailers have said they are reluctant to put their employees in the position of enforcing mask requirements.”

Some of these enforcement encounters have turned deadly, and they also place additional stress on service employees who have taken to social media to provide visibility into their experiences.

“Workers in service jobs have long endured stressful conditions for low pay,” the MIT Technology Review reports. “Many of these workers now face unemployment, fears about job security, and the daily dangers inherent in serving others during a pandemic. On top of all that, the pandemic has made dangerous encounters with customers more frequent—and social media has made such interactions more visible.

“Some videos about these encounters have gotten thousands of views: At a Skechers store in Oklahoma City, a customer was caught on video throwing shoeboxes at an employee’s head after being asked to wear a mask. And a Florida insurance agent was fired after he was filmed yelling at a Costco employee when asked why he wasn’t wearing a face covering.”