Countries are starting to reopen businesses and services, and this has brought up many concerns: which measures should be kept? Which measures can be dismissed? Should all countries comply with basic rules? Too many questions and not definite answers yet. Not convincing enough at least. 

Shifting to “the new normal”

Opening businesses seems to be the only way to lift up the economy. This is particularly true for countries whose economy is dominated by informal labour and a large part of the population lives from hand to mouth. That’s at least the reality in the so-called ‘developing countries’ — where the virus has aggravated the already precarious context many communities live in.

In an entry we shared last week, we explained what the term “conscious mitigation” entails. It basically refers to how the spread could be better controlled by only maintaining essential services activated for the duration of the virus’ life cycle. But this brings us back to the initial issue: what are the optimal steps? 

The Effect Of Country-specific Decisions 

Countries worldwide have adopted a different approach, affecting infection rates and mortality.

Spain, for example, was one of the worst hit countries in Europe. After a few months, and thousands of deaths, the Government imposed a strict mitigation phase – shutting all businesses and prohibiting any outdoor activities. The country slowly started reactivating, though more cautiously in hot spots such as Madrid and Barcelona. Life is close to being “back to normal” but masks are mandatory in enclosed areas and in most public spaces. A big issue now is that iIsolation in the capital is being politicized: working-class neighborhoods have a curfew but richer areas can move around freely. There is a big mislead on the true growth of the epidemic and The Ministry of Health doesn’t trust numbers coming from Madrid. Kenya also opted for a full lockdown in the early stages. Once it reopened, public and private institutions implemented hand hygiene, social distancing, and masking measures. Despite difficulty with avoiding overcrowding due to large households, the strategy of prioritizing testing on higher-risk groups has really lowered the reported case numbers. 

South Korea and Japan developed a quick, sophisticated plan to fight COVID-19 after past experiences with SARS and MERS. Both countries employed technological tools for rapid testing and contact tracing. A consistent and coherent government-driven communication guaranteed widespread cooperation to limit infection clusters. 

A response much in contrast to that of Mexico and Brazil, where Presidents minimized the crisis. Although they followed a voluntary stay-at-home strategy, they opposed wearing a mask and encouraged  people to go out. States within both countries decided to restrict activities and adopt stricter measures according to their own judgement. 

What’s then, the take away from this pandemic? 

Delay in control and mitigation is costly. A mix of voluntary and enforceable measures on aspects such as social distancing, mobility restrictions, and hygiene can flatten the curve and reduce the burden on the healthcare system. 

It’s not about being ‘pro’ masks or ‘anti’ masks. We can’t take the two-party predominance of our society to this dimension while the virus is actively taking lives. 

We must overcome biases and inform ourselves before taking a stand in this nonsensical fight.