- Countries like China and New Zealand have learned how to dance effectively with the coronavirus, minimising and controlling their outbreaks.
- But the US has not, and still carries the unenviable distinction of tallying the most confirmed coronavirus cases of any country, and the most deaths.
- Here’s a glimpse into 9 other countries around the globe that are dealing with the pandemic far better than America is right now.
- They include New Zealand, China, Senegal, Ghana, Spain, France, Mexico, India, and South Korea.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
No place on Earth has logged more coronavirus infections or more deaths than the United States.
In China â€” where the outbreak began â€” people are gathering without masks, because the risk of catching COVID-19 (the disease caused by the virus) is so low.
In India, where cases are spiking, the government is rushing out mobile testing centres â€” no bigger than a food truck â€” which deliver results to residents for free, in minutes.
Most Americans, when asked, say their country’s response to the virus makes them feel “embarrassed” and an overwhelming majority are angry, expressing frustration that more isn’t being done to fight the pandemic on their shores, according to a recent CNN poll.
Here’s a glimpse at how nine other countries are more effectively tackling the virus’s global spread, and how America stacks up:
In Wuhan, China, more than 1 million children went back to school this week.
2,842 kindergartens, primary, and secondary schools reopened on Tuesday, September 1 in the city where the coronavirus outbreak began, China’s state news agency reported.
There are no confirmed coronavirus cases in the city of Wuhan, or surrounding area, so the kids don’t always need to wear masks.
Chinese state media reported the last confirmed case of the virus in the region was released from the hospital on August 31.
Back in the US, hundreds of students have already contracted the virus, after returning to class mask-free.
There are at least 70 other, major outbreaks of the coronavirus on college and university campuses nationwide.
Only a few dozen new cases of the virus are being diagnosed nationwide in China every day.
The World Health Organisation said there are “clusters” of cases being diagnosed in the country, as opposed to the widespread community transmission in the US.
Many of the cases being diagnosed in China now are imported by travellers from abroad.
There were 33 new confirmed cases of the virus reported in China in the past 24 hours, according to the WHO on Friday. Shanghai reported five new cases of the virus imported there Friday, all Chinese nationals travelling home from studying or working abroad.
Since March, China has chiefly only opened its borders to allow Chinese people travelling home to return, even making it difficult for foreign nationals living in China to re-enter the country. China also enforced strict quarantining measures on anyone returning from abroad.
But just earlier this week, China started allowing foreign travellers from a very select list of countries back in. For now, they include Canada, Sweden, Australia, and Thailand. Travellers to China must submit proof they have tested negative for the virus, before they fly.
In contrast, the US had logged more than 42,660 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours on Thursday, according to the WHO. Travel bans in the US are weaker, and community spread is broad.
In South Korea, high-tech thermal camera temperature checks are the new norm. They’re not perfect at pinpointing infections, but it’s one part of a multi-pronged strategy.
Temperature checks don’t have a great track record with the coronavirus, in large part because they can miss so many cases of the virus in people who are sick with a low-grade fever, or no fever at all. However, this is just one tool in South Korea’s box.
South Korea is also using ample testing and contact tracing.
On Thursday, 195 new cases of the virus were reported nationwide in South Korea.
The country also takes its contact tracing very seriously, helping prevent infections from spreading in a community quickly.
Contact tracing in the US has been hard to carry out as well as South Korea’s, in large part because the country’s testing system is also flawed.
One of the biggest barriers to contact tracing in the US has been the country’s lagging test results, which delay notification of infected individuals, and thus to those who they have been in contact with, by critical days.
But there are myriad other reasons the US contact tracing system has fallen short too, which include a lack of built-up trust between patients and tracers, a sky high number of infected people, and an inadequate contact tracing workforce.
“It is broken because so many parts of our prevention system are broken.” Carolyn Cannuscio, a contact tracing expert and associate professor of family medicine and community health at the University of Pennsylvania, recently told the New York Times.
In the US, coronavirus cases are still spreading rapidly across many states.
South Dakota and Iowa are seeing some of the nation’s most severe surges, with roughly one in four tests performed in those states returning a positive result.
According to Reuters’ coronavirus tracker, both of those states saw their case counts double last week, as more people contracted the virus.
South Dakota was recently host to a major motorcycle rally in August, where more than 400,000 bikers mingled.
At least one of the rally attendees has since died from COVID-19.
In India, where the virus is also spreading fast, the World Health Organisation praised one state for its efforts to control the coronavirus.
The state of Gujarat, which has been battling a recent COVID-19 outbreak, has earned praise from health leaders at the WHO for its use of best practices for both detecting and containing the virus.
“Our recovery rate now stands at almost 79%,” Gujarat’s Principal Secretary of Health, Jayanti Ravi, told India’s Economic Times on August 20. “Over 51,000 beds are available at present across Gujarat for coronavirus patients.”
Blow-up clinics are also being used to screen patients, as time is of the essence.
On Friday, India recorded more than 83,300 new infections, double the number of cases diagnosed that same day in the US.
According to the Indian government, the case fatality rate in the country, at less than 2%, is improving, in large part because of “timely and effective clinical management of the patients in critical care,” but independent experts are still concerned the Indian death rate may be vastly undercounted.
Mobile testing vans that can deliver results to people on the street (for free, in as little as 15 minutes) are being dispatched by the Indian government.
In the US, patients have received surprise medical bills for thousands of dollars after going in for tests and treatment that were supposed to be free.
Despite new measures signed into law to protect people from paying out of pocket for coronavirus tests and treatment, patients are still getting billed, even when they never get tested at all.
Imad Khachan from New York City told Business Insider’s Kimberly Leonard he received a bill for nearly $US50,000 after a three-night hospital stay.
In France, where coronavirus transmission is still a concern, both students and their teachers are required to wear masks at school this year.
Masks are required for all French pupils 11 and up, anytime they’re not eating or playing outside, France24 reported. Teachers are provided with masks from the government.
In the US, where masks are not mandatory at school, one 72-year-old cancer survivor is offering extra credit to his students who wear masks.
“I would like to stay around a little longer,” Lawrence Lane, a high school government and history teacher in Oklahoma, told NBC News.
Not everyone in France is keen on the new mask mandates. This woman is protesting by writing the word “useless” in French on her mask. But, she’s still wearing it.
Masks are now required outerwear in Paris. Children under 11 and exercisers jogging and cycling are exempt, but everyone else caught outside maskless may be subject to a 135 Euro fine, France 24 reported.
Tour de France riders are likewise required to mask up this year, whenever they’re not racing.
The annual road race was pushed back by two months this year because of the virus, and the tour is only allowing a limited number of spectators to observe the three week course.
No autographs, and no selfies with the athletes are allowed.
Worried about a growing number of confirmed infections being reported in recent weeks in Spain, health workers in the northern port city of A Coruña have started testing all young adults.
Meanwhile in the US, CDC director Robert Redfield recently said “everyone who wants a test does not necessarily need a test.”
The CDC’s recent shifts in coronavirus testing recommendations “are frankly not scientifically supportable,” a former agency head told Insider.
The CDC, in a surprise move widely criticised by people in public health, changed its own guidance on who should be tested last week, by saying “you do not necessarily need a test,” for COVID-19, unless you show symptoms.
It was a strange protocol adjustment, considering that the agency’s own current best estimates suggest 40% of COVID-19 cases may be asymptomatic, and those asymptomatic patients are about 75% as infectious as symptomatic patients, so they may certainly get others sick.
Many people in the US still wait multiple days to get their test results back. Bill Gates said it makes the nation’s testing system “absolutely useless.”
US coronavirus testing czar Admiral Brett Giroir is promising that millions more rapid, 15 minute tests will become available across the US yet this month(especially for workers and residents in nursing homes).
In Ghana, drones help deliver test samples to labs from remote health centres.
Ghana, with one of the best testing rates in Africa, often uses the so-called “pooled” testing approach, whereby samples from multiple individuals are combined and tested together, to increase capacity and provide results more quickly too.
Scientists in Senegal have been testing out a new kind of rapid coronavirus test this summer, which would cost $US1, and could deliver results in 10 minutes.
Senegal also promised early-on in the pandemic that it would aim to provide a hospital bed to every coronavirus patient, and offer isolation to their close contacts, too.
Coronavirus treatment centres are open to aid patients with mild symptoms of the virus, or even no symptoms at all.
“We can stop the fire in our country, but the fire is still going in other countries,” Dr Abdoulaye Bousso, director of the Senegal Health Emergency Operations Centre in Dakar, told NPR in May.
It’s a stark contrast to the US, where people seeking care for severe infections have often been turned away, told to stay home and rest.
That’s what happened to Business Insider science reporter Aria Bendix, when she arrived at a busy ER in New York in March gasping for breath, her ribs burning.
Ghana is also stepping up manufacturing of PPE for the coronavirus, with factories commissioned by the government to manufacture more protective gear for healthcare workers.
The government is also helping people pay their water and electric bills during the pandemic: 50% off for all homes and businesses, and 100% off “for the very poor,” as the Brookings Institution reported in July.
In the US, many first responders have had to pay for their own protective gear, or resort to trash bags, and defective gowns from the government.
“To suggest that they should wear garbage bags – or, perhaps worse, didn’t know how to wear garbage bags – is symbolic of the long-standing government marginalization of a workforce that cares for a population that is predominantly Medicaid,” Brendan Williams, President & CEO of the New Hampshire Health Care Association, told Insider, after receiving two shipments of unusable PPE from FEMA in May and June.
In Senegal, worshippers conduct their prayers outside, where there’s plenty of air circulation.
Muslims in Senegal ended their holy month of Ramadan in late May this year by celebrating Korité with a bit more distance than usual, as very little travel was permitted between different regions of the country, to stem the spread of the virus.
While in the US, reopened churches have played host to several major coronavirus superspreader events.
People who’ve attended faith services indoors in the US this year, from churches in Arkansas and Chicago to a synagogue in New York, have caught the virus from their fellow parishioners, after huddling inside, in poorly-ventilated spaces, to share the air as they pray, talk, and sing.
“People congregate, hug each other, exchange stories, and thank you very much, the virus is going to go from me to you,” William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert from Vanderbilt University, previously told Business Insider.
South of the border, in Matamoros, Mexico, roughly 1,500 people are living in tents, awaiting asylum hearings. Very few have gotten the virus.
The low infection rate is likely helped by the fact that asylum seekers live largely outdoors, wear masks, and are relatively young and healthy too, as Slate recently reported.
Just north of them, across the Rio Grande, Texas continues to lead the nation in coronavirus cases, adding more than 33,500 new cases last week (only California had more).
“People thought everything was fine – the wrong signals were sent,” Turner recently told Business Insider. “I don’t really blame the people because if you start opening up, they just assume everything is fine.”
In New Zealand, where reopenings were not as rushed as in Texas, the country had an enviable run of 102 days virus-free starting June 8.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that she “did a little dance” when she heard the news that all coronavirus restrictions could be lifted, as the country’s last remaining case was declared symptom-free.
From June 8 to August 11, New Zealanders kissed and hugged blissfully, having eliminated the virus from their shores entirely.
Fans also packed into sports stadiums to watch games, without worry.
Even when the virus did return in August, New Zealand had a clear plan in place to control it.
“After 102 days, we have our first cases of COVID-19 outside of a managed isolation or quarantine facility in New Zealand,”Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the evening of August 11, ending the streak. “While we have all worked incredibly hard to prevent this scenario, we have also planned and prepared for it.”
Gatherings in the capital of Auckland (where the August outbreak originated) are still limited to 10 people, and everyone travelling on public transport throughout the country must wear a face covering.
The number of active coronavirus cases in the country (at 112 infections as of Friday afternoon in New Zealand) is on a downward trend, and there’s only one cluster of cases, that “Auckland August Cluster.” The source of infection for the cluster, which has so far sickened more than 150 people, is still under investigation.
Many Americans still grumble about an action as simple and effective as putting their masks on.
Masks or no masks, the coronavirus outbreak could get much worse across the US, in the months to come.
Bill Gates told Business Insider he was baffled by the resistance.
“The sacrifice of wearing a mask is almost so trivial that you almost hate to use the word ‘sacrifice,'” he said.
“The fall could be tough, we’ll be indoors more, it will be colder – we know those are things that push the disease up,”Gates said. All indications so far suggest Americans are probably not ready for it.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, who is recovering from COVID, agrees with Gates: It’s time for America to mask up, and for all politicians to start taking this pandemic seriously.
“Wear your mask,”Johnson reiterated in a recent Instagram video, announcing his entire family was recovering from COVID-19 infections.
“It has nothing to do with politics. Wear your mask. It is a fact. And it is the right thing to do, not only for yourself, but for your family and your loved ones, and also for your fellow human beings.”