As lockdowns ease across the world, China, South Korea, and Germany see rise in new coronavirus cases
Countries that had recently beaten the new coronavirus have lowered their guard, and now they are bracing for a second fight against the disease.
These countries did everything right to flatten their curve. But as they began loosening restrictions to keep the economy afloat, the virus began to make a comeback in China, South Korea, and Germany. This comes as a few countries are set to reopen despite not seeing a drastic drop.
“We must never lower our guard regarding epidemic prevention. We are in a prolonged war. I ask everyone to comply with safety precautions and rules until the situation is over, even after resuming daily lives," South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a televised address.
Developments in China, South Korea, and Germany
Chinese authorities ended lockdown measures in Wuhan --the former epicenter of the outbreak -- on April 8th and have since not recorded new cases. But that changed on 9th May.
There are brewing cases elsewhere in the country. A city named Shulan, bordering North Korea, has come under the scanner after recording a spike in infections. On May 9, the city belonging to the Jilin province confirmed 11 new infections, prompting authorities to raise the threat level to high from medium.
Authorities have sealed the city, banning all non-essential travel and closing residential compounds and villages. They have shut schools too, asking students to study from home.
The following day, China confirmed a few more cases in Hubei province, Jilin province, and each in Liaoning province and Heilongjiang province. The country has also reported that 12 people tested positive for the virus and have not shown symptoms on the same day.
Earlier lauded for its efforts to defeat the virus, South Korea is finding itself in troubled waters again. The government eased social distancing norms on May 6, calling it “a new daily life with Covid-19”. They warned that restrictions would come back if infections surge.
And it only took only four days to do so. The new coronavirus has triggered a cluster of infections -- 36 of them on 9th May -- tied to nightclubs in the country's capital, Seoul. All of the bars and pubs will remain shut indefinitely, the Mayor said.
“A second wave is inevitable,” Son Young-Rae, a senior epidemiological strategist at the government’s Central Disaster Management Headquarters, told The New York Times. “But we are running a constant monitoring and screening system throughout our society so that we can prevent it from exploding rapidly into hundreds or thousands of cases like the one we had in the past," he explained.
“We hope to slow the spread and keep the size down to small, sporadic outbreaks, hopefully of 20 to 30 cases, that come and go,” he said, “so that we can handle them while the people go on with their daily lives," he added.
The situation in Germany is no different. On 10 th May, the country confirmed 667 new cases and 26 deaths in less than a week since the country eased many of restrictive measures.
However, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute reportedly said it too early to know whether infection rates will rise or drop in the coming days.
Other countries are reopening too soon
Public health experts have warned that reopening US states too early could turn disastrous. In fact, none of them meets all the criteria needed before opening up, Caitlin Rivers, from Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told a US House Appropriations subcommittee recently.
What is more, one study predicted that premature easing of restrictions could ignite an early second wave of infections.
And then there is France, which will ease restrictions on Monday even as it has traced a cluster of at least nine cases to a funeral in Dordogne in the south-west of the country.
A local prefect, Frédéric Perissat, told Guardian that the cluster was “an illustration of what we are hoping not to live through in the next few weeks … There’s a slackening off, people gather in a group of 20 or 30 and one person passes on the infection to others.
Iran which has begun easing restrictions on normal life is now seeing their situation worsen. After seeing a sharp rise in new cases, the Middle-Eastern country has placed a county under lockdown to prevent an explosion.
“Because of this the number of corona patients in the province has tripled and the hospitalization of patients has risen by 60 %,” according to Gholamreza Shariati, governor of Khuzestan province, as quoted by the Tasnim news agency. "The situation should in no way be considered normal" in Iran, health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said in a televised address.