• Alysa Salzberg

Here’s why countries may have significantly different rates of coronavirus infection and deaths

There are many mysteries surrounding the coronavirus, which is one of the reasons it’s so frightening. A new article sheds light on what might be one of the biggest mysteries: Why some countries seem to have been able to contain the disease better than others.


The article compares South Korea, which, as of this writing, has 7979 confirmed cases and 71 deaths, and Italy which currently has 15,113 confirmed cases and 1016 deaths.


The virus was first reported in these countries at around the same time (late January), and they have a similar population count. So why is there such a disparity?


The issue, it turns out, may depend on testing for the virus. In Italy, patients who test positive for the virus or or who may pose a risk are the ones who are focused on. In South Korea, on the other hand, health officials administered tests to a much wider range of patients from the start, and continue to track potentially infected people.


This means a certain level of invasion of privacy, including the fact that the names of those who test positive are given out to anyone who may be in contact with them, so that these people can also get tested. Interestingly, this surveillance doesn’t go hand in hand with methods like widespread quarantine, a technique being used in Italy. Instead, only infected patients or particular residences have been quarantined in South Korea, instead of entire towns, cities, and regions – or, as of now, the entire country, as in the case of Italy.


There’s no way to know for certain, and it can also be argued that the article doesn’t seem to take certain other facts into account, such as Italy having one of the largest populations of elderly people in the world.


Still, studying these techniques may help other countries who are dealing with the virus, or help us better prepare for future global health crises.


Read on to learn more about South Korea and Italy’s responses to the coronavirus crisis, and what impact they might have had on transmission and containment.


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