After weeks of dire warnings from public health experts that reopening economies will cause spikes in COVID-19 cases and spur a high-stakes game of pandemic whack-a-mole, the reopening of economies is causing spikes in COVID-19 cases and spurring a high-stakes game of pandemic whack-a-mole in China, Germany, and South Korea.
Germany loosened social and business restrictions, and the infection rate is up, including outbreaks at meat processing facilities, one of which includes 180 workers who have tested positive. (May 18, 2020) Germany reported 555 new cases, which is its lowest number in a week, though indicative of the country’s ongoing, uncontrolled epidemic.
South Koreashut down its nightlife scene after dozens of infections were linked to clubgoers, many to one particular 29-year-old man who visited three nightclubs and subsequently tested positive. Officials are scrambling to contact nearly 2,000 attendees.
China may too soon join the list. Just one week ago, China declared the entire country low- or medium-risk. On Sunday, China indicated fresh local outbreaks, including 17 new cases in one day, its largest rise in weeks, and shut down all public places in the city of Shulan. A half dozen new cases are in Wuhan, the city’s first new cluster in the month since lockdown restrictions were loosened. Though these numbers are small, they are a notable uptick from weeks of low activity and signal community transmission.
Two weeks ago, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, the former president of the World Bank, explained during a Fast Company webinar that economies can only reopen safely when five strategies are in place simultaneously: social distancing, extensive testing, contact tracing, isolation or quarantine of those in contact with positive patients, and treatment. “It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be expensive. But I don’t think we have any other choice,” he said.