China says it successfully contained the first national-scale epidemic of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, largely by confining the outbreak to the city of Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province. Chinese statistics show remarkably few cases elsewhere in China. And those data also indicate that since restrictions on social life and commerce in Wuhan have been slowly lifted, there’s been no second wave of infections.
But from the first, Chinese government data on the coronavirus epidemic have been unreliable, accentuating the positive, eliminating the negative and creating doubts about the claim that moving to normalize life, albeit slowly and under strict controls, has not come at a great cost to public health.
In South Korea, where claims have been more realistic, a quick government response to an outbreak in the city of Daegu quickly flattened the curve of new cases, but the downside of the curve is proving to be flatter and longer in duration than some had hoped. The South Korean Covid-19 threat has been greatly mitigated, but barely reduced and certainly not eliminated. And though South Korean restraints on citizens’ lives have not been as complete or harshly enforced as in China, citizen compliance with keeping socially distant, avoiding physical contact and always wearing a mask has been high.
In Singapore, where the first wave of coronavirus infection was quelled along South Korean lines, opening the country to international visitors and government neglect of dormitories filled with migrant workers, and the worker’s neglect of coronavirus safety rules have brought the infection roaring back with new cases rising faster in the second wave than in the first.
In Central Europe, quick government recognition of the coronavirus threat, followed by widespread infection testing and contact tracing, and stay-at-home lockdowns and masking rules have kept infection numbers low, and death rates even lower. Now, it has been decided, it is safe to start opening up. On April 14, Austria opened garden centers and some small stores. A week later, similar steps – allowing certain, small-scale businesses to serve limited numbers of customers – had been taken by Germany, Luxemburg, Slovakia and the Czech Republic or Czechia, where craft shops, farmers’ markets, car showrooms and second-hand stores have all been allowed to reopen.
David Weiss is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism at the University of New Mexico. He teaches courses in strategic communication, political communication, and media studies. His research interests include media discourse, political and religious communication, and the media and popular culture industries. Before his return to academia in 2000, Dr. Weiss worked in the advertising agency business in New York City for almost two decades. He has taught in Oregon, Ohio, and Montana, and is thrilled to be back at UNM, where he earned his Ph.D. degree in 2005.