What Can We Learn From Other Countries Opening Up During the COVID-19 Outbreak?

By Rosunnara Roth
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Photo Courtesy: Hu Chengwei/Stringer/Getty Images News

Many countries are debating when or how to reopen in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. A few countries have successfully managed to control the spread of the virus using similar methods as each other. However, their stories for returning to normal are different and show how hard it is to bounce back. Everyone must take cautious steps to prevent their progress from going down the drain.

The world is watching countries like South Korea and Germany and rethinking their processes to reopen. Countries that may have COVID-19 under control reveal that life will never be the same. What are the valuable lessons from their experiences? Let’s take a look at what we can learn from the countries that are opening up during the COVID-19 outbreak.


China: Extreme Measures Can Help Beat the Virus

China has taken brutal yet necessary actions to contain the virus. As cases dropped, the country lifted the lockdown in major cities, including the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, Wuhan. Some of the country’s effective protocols are still used after lockdown, such as free and accessible testing, contact tracing, regular cleaning and communicating the seriousness of the virus to the public.

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Photo Courtesy: STR/AFP/Getty Images

For instance, schools in Yongzhou must disinfect children’s shoes before they enter the buildings. In Shanghai, some restaurants have machines that spray incoming patrons with disinfectants. Shanghai even reopened the happiest place on Earth, Disneyland. The theme park has a capacity of 80,000 people, but the reopening only allowed the park to be 30% filled. Guests are required to purchase timed entry tickets, practice social distancing, wear masks and show their QR health code (a personal code for contact tracing).

The results looked promising in China, but Wuhan recently reported six new transmission cases, prompting officials to test all 11 million residents. China’s story shows the benefits of clear communication and widespread testing. Although Wuhan has discovered a few infections, the country effectively shares information and offers rapid testing to save lives.

Germany: Be Creative While Social Distancing

Germany’s rapid response to the pandemic is a teachable moment for the world. However, the country has also inspired us to be creative while showing us we can have fun and be safe at the same time. One of its viral examples happened when the country threw a massive drive-in rave.

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Photo Courtesy: Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance/Getty Images

Believe it or not, almost 250 cars filled a parking lot to watch performances by DJ Le Shuuk and Tiefblau. After the World Club Dome festival was postponed, the promoters gave guests a new festival experience where they could party safely in their vehicles. There were lasers, smoke, special effects and cars honking to the beat.

Beyond unique rave experiences, businesses are taking steps to protect themselves and customers as Germany slowly reopens. For instance, some bar owners have installed sneeze guards between customers and workers. One café owner literally used her noodle to remind diners to keep their distance from each other: She gave her customers hats covered in pool noodles.

South Korea: Always Remain Vigilant

After weeks of enforcing strict lockdowns, widespread testing and rigorous contact tracing, South Korea recorded only a few new COVID-19 cases. That number went down to zero on April 30. The victory led to relaxed social distancing, businesses reopening and even sports returning. South Korea successfully contained the outbreak, but the moment didn’t last long.

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Photo Courtesy: Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images

Four days later, a new cluster of COVID-19 infections forced officials to shut down Seoul’s popular Itaewon nightlife district. Authorities sprung into action after learning a 29-year-old man who visited several packed nightclubs tested positive. He showed no symptoms when he went out. Many bars also took temperatures of their patrons before they entered.

Since then, officials have scrambled to trace at least 5,500 people who visited the Itaewon district. So far, more than 100 people have tested positive, with almost all of them linked to the incident. Using data from mobile phones and credit card transactions, officials are looking for other visitors to test. Although the bars required patrons to provide their information at the door, many people left fake names, making the tracing process more difficult.

Despite having a new outbreak, the country is confident in managing the situation due to its effective system. South Korea’s reopening is a critical lesson for other countries. As restrictions become more relaxed, everyone must remain vigilant and plan for resurgences. This incident also demonstrates the importance of tracing.


Hong Kong: Take Extra Precautions at Businesses

To keep gym-goers safe, Pure Fitness in Hong Kong’s Quarry Bay put up clear dividers to separate workout equipment. That’s not the only safety measure the facility is taking. Hong Kong gyms also have different sanitizing machines and even tools that clean cell phones using UV light. The cleaning crew wipes down the equipment more often as well. The rest of the world should expect to see similar practices at gyms.

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Photo Courtesy: Bloomberg QuickTake/YouTube

Members do their part to prevent the spread of the virus by having temperature checks and answering questions on travel history and the possibility of exposure. Cleaning the machines after use is another mandatory rule.

Restaurants, bars, shops and theaters have implemented their own control measures too. For instance, theaters fill below capacity and arrange seating plans in the shape of a diamond. Some small restaurants remain closed due to a lack of space in which to follow proper distancing orders, and it’s easy to see why. The Chinese territory is extremely congested, but it has appeared to manage the outbreak effectively.

All seemed well until Hong Kong’s 23-day streak of zero local cases was shattered mid-May. Despite no recent travel history, a 66-year-old woman and her family mysteriously contracted the virus. The world watched as Hong Kong’s cases declined and resurged after reopening, learning that there will always be risks after easing restrictions. However, a series of public-awareness and strong control measures can dramatically lessen transmission.