People wearing protective face masks as they walk in a park, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Shanghai, China March 18, 2020. Aly Song, Reuters
Culture Spotlight

South Korea reports sharp drop in COVID-19 cases, and Hokkaido lifts State of Emergency

Three Asian neighbors show positive signs while possible cures are being explored in other parts of the world. By JACS T. SAMPAYAN
| Mar 21 2020

As the world remains mired in COVID-19 case counts and alarming updates, it’s hard to look past everyone’s grim newsfeeds. But opening our eyes wider to a bigger world that is, albeit slowly, starting to stand up should give us hope—or at least an easier day. ANCX will regularly gather positive developments in different corners of the globe to show that, in trying to move forward, we can confidently train our eyes upward.

 

China cases drop to single digits

Confirmed COVID-19 cases have dropped in China to single digits, with only eight new cases reported in just 24 hours. A total of 65,000 patients have been discharged across the superpower nation since the pandemic started. Earlier this month, it was projected that the case count in Wuhan, where the outbreak began, will go to zero by the end of March.

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Hokkaido lifts State of Emergency 

Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island and which has the most number of cases of COVID-19, finally lifted its State of Emergency yesterday. Officials advised that schools should be reopened in the northern prefecture, and added that the government is close to getting to virus under control. Japan Association of Infectious Diseases Kazuhiro Tateda says that this positive trend may be due to the Japanese mindset of following the government during a crisis.

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Sharp drop in cases in South Korea

Coronavirus cases in South Korea have also had a sharp drop, and they have done so without resorting to authoritarian measures such as widespread lockdowns. The apparent key to their success? Mass testing. The country of 50 million tested over 270,000 of its people, among the highest around the world. Some say that sharing contact tracing details publicly have also helped, although it raises privacy concerns.

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Medical staff in protective gear work at a 'drive-thru' testing center for COVID-19 in Yeungnam University Medical Center in Daegu, South Korea, March 3, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

The speech a nation needs

German chancellor Angela Merkel recently addressed her nation, in a televised speech that was described by New York Magazine online as “without accusations, boasts, hedges, obfuscations, dubious claims, or apocalyptic metaphors.” It was a succinct and necessary message, one that was welcomed by the rest of the world starving for stability, clarity, and a way forward. “This is serious,” she said. “Take it seriously.” And we highly doubt in the slightest that she wasn’t. “Since German unification—no, since the Second World War—no challenge to our nation has ever demanded such a degree of common and united action.” Her message was simple: She thanked frontliners, asked the citizens not to hoard, and even singled out oft-neglected workers like cashiers and shelf stockers.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel says COVID-19 is Germany's biggest challenge since WW2.

A decline in pollution 

Satellite images from the European Space Agency have shown a substantial decline in pollution over hard-hit COVID-19 countries like China and Italy, both of which enforced lockdowns. This is due to a decrease in traffic numbers as well as industrial inactivity. In particular, Nitrogen dioxide, which is produced through the burning of fossil fuels, were in major remission.

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The one about the old Malaria drug 

There’s a buzz that started on Twitter about chloroquine, the old Malaria drug that might possibly work against COVID-19. Even as many drugs are currently in clinical trials, blockchain investor James Todaro floated the idea of chloroquine as a potential and shared an explanation he co-wrote on Google Docs. Many say his theory checks out and tech enthusiasts are pushing for clinical trials. While it's being studied, the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases warns the public against the use of Chloroquine as a prophylaxis as there is still no hard evidence it can prevent COVID-19. If Todaro is proven right, however, this may turn the tide of the pandemic.

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Chloroquine phosphate, an old drug for the treatment of malaria, has shown some efficacy and acceptable safety against COVID-19 associated pneumonia in trials, according to Chinese media. Xu Congjun, EPA-EFE