Italy, South Korea provide examples of what COVID-19 may hold for the US

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Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse via AP

Workers wearing protective outfits sanitize a neighborhood to contain the spread of Covid-19 virus, in Rome, Saturday, March 28, 2020. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Evan Miller

America is now at least several weeks from the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, but many countries experienced coronavirus outbreaks before the United States, and two have had vastly different outcomes.

What can America learn from these two countries, Italy and South Korea?

With Italy passing China to record the most deaths due to coronavirus, there are many problems that Italy now faces, and Italy may be a worst-case scenario for the United States.

South Korea on the other hand, may be the best case scenario. South Korea at one point had the largest number of cases outside of China, but they have seemed to drastically stop the spreading.

Now, with the United States on the verge of an explosion of cases, American’s should consider what South Korea and Italy can teach about how to stop the virus.

Italy now has the most deaths due to the Coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak has spread all over the world, but the country that is getting the worst of it is Italy. With an estimated 475 deaths per day as of March 18, the Coronavirus has put Italy on a virtual lockdown since March 9.

Italy now has 3,405 confirmed deaths, passing China. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the government of Italy is working fast on providing more protective equipment, and  has set a priority to keep nurses and doctors safe.

In less than three weeks, the virus has burdened hospitals all over northern Italy. Doctors are working ten or more hours per day, and it has taken a toll on their bodies and minds, according to a story in the New York Times.

One woman passed out in a northern Italy hospital with her mask on after working a more than ten hour shift.

This has offered a glimpse of what is to come for the United States if Americans don’t take more measures to stop the pandemic.

One town in Italy had doctors being forced not to treat the old, leaving them sick, while another town has doctors sending patients home with coronavirus-caused sickness. Italy has closed all stores except pharmacies, grocery stores, and essential stores, putting this country on lockdown in an attempt to stop the virus.

One reason Italy has been hit so hard is because the country has the most elderly in Europe, with almost 25% of the population at the age 65 or older, which is a big problem since this disease is most dangerous for older people.

The disease is also causing economic problems.

Italian Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri has confirmed the government’s support package for workers and companies, a total of 25 billion euros, which is roughly $28 billion in the U.S. This package would help the health system, companies, and households that need to spend money for taxes.

With this crisis getting out of hand, Italy has turned to its military for help. Cemeteries all over Italy are becoming full, which is leaving the military to transport people elsewhere.

South Korea has contained the outbreak of the Coronavirus

As other countries are heading for disaster, South Korea seems like the best place to be right now.

With the country having 50 million people, the world expected South Korea to get hit hard by the Coronavirus, but that was not the case. South Korea showed that the Coronavirus can be stopped, or “flattened,” and that the people in the country would be safe.

Italy has recorded several hundred deaths per day, while South Korea has had no more than eight.

What is South Korea doing that other countries aren’t?

While South Korea has a confirmed 9,000 cases, the country has another distinction. They have flattened the curve of the virus better than most countries.

“South Korea has been able to make tactical decisions regarding schools, regarding movements by people, and have been able to move forward without any drastic measures,” said Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme.

Behind this success of flattening the curve of the virus is one of the most well-organized testing programs in the world. There have been extensive efforts to isolate infected people who have received the virus, and there has been extensive contact tracing for infected people who have come in contact with other people.

South Korea did one other  thing better than any country: the leadership acted fast. Thousands of test kits were shipping daily to hospitals, and the testing began shortly after. The country has conducted over 300,000 tests, which is more than 40 times of the United States.

“Testing is central as it leads to early detection and minimizes further spreading, and it quickly treats those with the virus,” said Kang Kyung-wha, South Korea’s foreign minister. Hospitals in Italy have become overwhelmed, but that is not the case in South Korea.

Officials have opened 600 testing centers designed to screen as many people as possible in a short amount of time. This has taken the load off of hospitals and clinics. Also, there are 50 drive through stations, so patients do not have to leave their car for testing.

The United States is on the brink of an explosion of cases, and this country has to do its best to flatten this epidemic.

The bad news: it’s too late for the United States to copy what South Korea has done, but the Coronavirus fight can be won.

With testing, time, and people following the guidelines, this country can put an end to the Coronavirus, and put everyone back into normal life.