Lessons to learn from South Korea, Sweden

Lessons to learn from South Korea, Sweden
Lessons to learn from South Korea, Sweden

While several countries across the globe have gone in for total lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19, South Korea is being seen as a role model which had succeeded in flattening the curve without going in for lockdown and without having to shut down the economy

While several countries across the globe have gone in for total lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19, South Korea is being seen as a role model which had succeeded in flattening the curve without going in for lockdown and without having to shut down the economy. Sweden is another country which also chose not to go in for lockdown but has been able to contain the spread of coronavirus.

It is not that people of South Korea or Sweden were not worried about the outbreak of the virus. But what made the difference was the way they handled it and the discipline that was exhibited by the people in those countries. In fact, that is what we in India need to follow.

Soon after coronavirus cases started multiplying in China, South Korea which had learnt a lesson from previous epidemics like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related coronavirus (Sars) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that occurred in 2015 from another type of coronavirus and took immediate measures to handle the situation.

It adopted the policy of testing, tracing and treating. People too responded with highest level of discipline such as willingness to follow social distancing for greater good. This helped South Korea not only in containing the virus but also helped in continuing its economic activity.

During Sars and MERs, lack of tests to detect the disease forced many infected people to travel all around cities in search of a medical centre to perform the testing. Following this, a law was enacted that the government would take up immediate action to approve testing systems in case of health emergency.

As coronavirus started staring at Korea, they took up mass production of tests and had set up free testing sites across the country which helped all sections of the society irrespective of economic status to get free tests done.

It had created necessary infrastructure to test at least 10,000 people daily and results were delivered in three days-time. It also went in for another novel method of testing known as drive-thru testing sites and took up about three lakh screening tests.

This helped them in tracking the location of the infected persons and prevented the spread of virus. Information sharing was another tool they had effectively used.

The government publicly released information about the location of infected individuals and their movements around the country but never released the names of infected measures.

Such geographic information had kept those who pass through those areas to take necessary precautionary measures. The main lesson one should learn from Korea is that transparency helps.

The government in a swift move closed schools and universities and made use of face masks compulsory and cancelled all public events. Massive campaign to maintain hygiene was taken up.

The government made best use of media in propagating on the need for social distancing while the law enforcing authorities ensured strict compliance of the WHO guidelines in the streets.

The government also made sure that supplies of masks etc do not disappear from the shelves and that their prices are not increased.

The self-discipline exhibited by people in South Korea is also something that needs to be seriously pondered over by many countries like the US and Asian countries including India.

Not just South Korea, even Hong Kong and Singapore had experienced outbreaks of virus in the past and they learnt lessons whereas countries like the US and India missed. Even when the number of cases has been rising across the country, we hesitate to use the masks and we still do not follow the guidelines of WHO in letter and spirit.

The high-level discipline displayed by the people of South Korea enabled the country to hold elections to regional assembly without any spread of corona cases. The country now has manufacturing capacity of 100,000 test kits and can give results within hours.

As South Korea did not impose shutdown, economic activity did not come to a grinding halt as in case of many countries. This has helped them to be in an advantageous position though they cannot escape the impact of global recession.

Sweden is another country which had not gone in for lockdown. Nothing has changed in Sweden. Schools are open, cafes, restaurants, bars, playgrounds, gyms are open.

Movement of vehicles on highways continues uninterrupted. All that the government had done was to urge the citizens to act responsibly and maintain social distancing. The government has asked people to work from home, but this restriction was also minimal.

Public gatherings have been limited to 50 and those above 70 years have been advised to be extra cautious and avoid contact with other people. No marking has been made to enforce social distancing as we see here in India.

The advantage Sweden has is that people have high faith in their government. The country is sparsely populated and most of the households are single person households. They also do not kiss or hug.

Like South Korea, Sweden has also become a role model to many countries where commerce has not been affected. Experts say that this has helped in building herd immunity and there has been no panic situation.

They know this is not a disease that can be stopped or eradicated unless a vaccine is produced. The only solution is to keep the spread of infections at bay.

The different kind of traditions they have and the immense faith the people have in the government as well as the self-discipline which they have been exhibiting has helped Sweden to do things in a little different manner.

One thing is certain that the coronavirus must subside sooner or later but what people in countries like India should learn is the kind of discipline which people of South Korea and Sweden had displayed.

If people who had attended the Jamaat had shown this kind of discipline, India too would have been in the list of countries which had flattened its graph of spread of the coronavirus.

We have been witnessing across the country how the law is being violated with impunity despite massive campaign by the Central and State governments which had complicated the issue to some extent.

The kind of discipline and social distancing being witnessed in rural areas and tribal areas is missing in urban areas.

Let us hope that in the post corona period, the Central government will come with certain laws where greater focus would be laid on compulsory insurance and people will realise the need for imbibing great discipline.

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