The number of Covid-19 cases in Hong Kong has been rocketing upwards since the beginning of February this year. By the end of the month, it had increased by 30,000 new patients, with more than 80 deaths every day. It seems the curve still has not reached its peak to date. This international metropolis with almost the highest population density globally faces the same problem as Western countries when dealing with the pandemic. The overwhelmed healthcare system looks to be close to collapse. The society has been in the never-ending debate on the direction of the Covid-19 strategy. They want to choose the better one in two broadly classified policies employed in tackling the pandemic, “dynamic zero Covid-19” and “living with Covid-19”.
In the past decade, Germany has caught the attention of the world for the high-profile moves it has made in the field of global public health. While the country’s contributions to social medicine date back two hundred years to the birth of Rudolf Virchow, the waves it has made in global health are more recent. A 2017 article in the Lancet argued that Germany “has become a visible actor in global health [only] in the past ten years.” The WZB Berlin Social Science Center has been at the center of some of these developments.
Note: A podcast episode by WZB’s Soziologische Perspektiven auf die Corona-Krise with Joseph Harris on the same topic can be found here.
South Africa was hit hard during the country’s first coronavirus wave that began in March 2020. While an aggressive lockdown was initially praised for stopping spread and saving as many as 20,000 lives, the lockdown had important consequences of its own. And as pressure to reopen grew, by July 2020, the country stood mired in the largest coronavirus outbreak on the continent and one of the largest in the world. What factors left South Africa so vulnerable to the coronavirus? What policies and programs comprised the governmental response? How has the country navigated COVID-19 since that time, and what support can Germany and other industrialized nations offer the country today? Based on a chapter Harris wrote on the politics of South Africa’s coronavirus response in an edited volume that can be accessed for free here, his present article explores these questions.
Note: The German version of this article was first published on Der Tagesspiegel.
The track record of fighting pandemics in liberal democracies of Europe does not compare very favorably with that of Asian countries. This applies not only to the comparison with authoritarian China and the semi-authoritarian countries Thailand and Singapore, but also to the comparison with the democratic countries of Taiwan and South Korea. Since the infection figures are not easily comparable due to differences in testing intensity, country differences manifest themselves most evidently in the number of people who have died. For example, in South Korea which has a population of 52 million fewer than 1,500 have died till date whilst in Germany which has a population of 83 million more than 60,000 deaths have occurred. The differences between other European and Asian countries (e.g., between Great Britain and Taiwan) are even more pronounced. The aforementioned Asian societies are also impressively successful in overcoming the economic and social consequences of the crisis. Continue reading “Dangerous Ignorance: Why we learn so little about fighting the pandemic from Asian countries”