Hibernation versus elimination: The ‘COVID-19 elite’ — the countries with better outcomes — have a number of things in common.

Hibernation versus elimination: The ‘COVID-19 elite’ — the countries with better outcomes — have a number of things in common. By Will Glasgow.

On measure after measure, ­Taiwan looks like the world’s gold standard in COVID-19 management. Taiwanese kids still go to school, Taipei gym junkies still pump iron together and — heroic­ally — in recent weeks Taiwan’s total number of cases of the virus have often been less than the daily number of new cases in Australia, which has a similar population of just less than 25 million.

They are crushing the curve (option3, beyond herd immunity and flattening the curve):

The East Asian nation has gone well beyond “flattening the curve”, a version of which the Morrison government is pursuing. The Aust­ralian version has been dubbed “hibernation” and includes­ more than $200bn in government spending.

Instead Taiwan is attempting an all-out elimination effort of COVID-19 to keep life on the mountainous island as normal as possible before a safe vaccine for the new coronavirus is available, likely still at least a year away. And in a major complication to the propaganda efforts of arch enemy and neighbour China — which is also launching a COVID-19 elimination strategy — Taiwan is doing this as a democracy. …

The other members — call them the COVID-19 elite — include­ South Korea, where many workers are being called back into their offices by their conservative bosses; Hong Kong, which only this week banned karaoke and mahjong joints; Singapore, which only now has decided to keep its students at home from next Wednesday; and China, which is finding the balance most difficult, as is to be expected of a country of 1.4 billion people. …

What they do differently:

Having mostly contained the fast-spreading coronavirus dom­estically, each country in the COVID-19 elite has set up a mechanism to hawkeye new infections, so they can be quickly identified, isolated, traced and contained.

Face masks are ubiquitous in all of them, except for Singapore, which perhaps not coincidentally is the only member that does not manufacture them. Hand sanitiser is everywhere.

Social distancing is practised diligently by their people, who have lived experience with deadly infectious diseases, whether it be severe acute respiratory syndrome, Middle East respiratory syndrome or this new killer.

Smart, disciplined, goal-oriented, and serious. Different “culture”:

Then there was K-pop star Jaejoong of boy band JYJ, who on April Fool’s Day told his almost two million Instagram followers that he had COVID-19. “It was because I lived carelessly, disregarding all of the cautions provided by the government and those around me,” the 34-year-old wrote.

His prank — which backfired spectacularly — revealed the confidence many in South Korea have about the country’s cutting-edge coronavirus set-up. It is hard to imagine one of the Backstreet Boys making a similar joke right now.

The ferocious backlash also revealed­ South Koreans’ huge support for the social restrictions their government has imposed.

Sentiment is similar in China, to go by the outrage generated by stories about people, including an Australian-Chinese woman in Beijing, who have broken quarantine rules. According to local media, the woman has since been deported to widespread applause on Chinese social media.

By contrast, this week there was a backlash over police enforcement of social distancing in Australia — which has more than double the confirmed COVID-19 cases of Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong combined — and Britain, where more than 2900 have already died of the coronavirus.

So we get to stay at home and twiddle our thumbs under state authoritarianism, while the COVID-19 elite go about life almost as normal.

Our approach is blunt and medieval, because selfish or thoughtless behavior and dangerous rule-breaking is rife. Theirs is sensibly calibrated (except in China), and uses high tech policing and contact tracing via mobile phones.

Those who are hip to IQ and personality distributions will be having a field day. As folk wisdom notes, character is destiny.

hat-tip Stephen Neil