Experiences from around the world during COVID-19 Part 1: New York and Seoul
Here is a snapshot of how people around the world are dealing with the situation; what life is like, and how their governments have responded.
We are living in unprecedented times. The world is hurtling towards a million confirmed COVID-19 cases; most places are in lockdown, and there is widespread fear. Here is a snapshot of how people around the world are dealing with the situation; what life is like, and how their governments have responded - in their own words.
Minju, 23, South Korea
Here in South Korea, there is no national lockdown, but the government is encouraging social distancing between people. All schools have been postponed for over a month. Streets are generally emptier. People are cautious, and everyone wears a mask; people are recovering from the panic of a month ago.
I think the Korean government responded with the urgency the situation required. They did mass testing as soon as we started seeing cases, along with watertight contact tracing. They also did a huge public campaign for washing hands, wearing masks, and other measures of basic hygiene. I'm satisfied and proud of the government's response and believe this is the reason why we were able to contain it and not let it go out of control. Currently, Korea has the highest number of people tested per every million people. I think this was the most important measure.
The government did two live briefings a day, as well as push messages to everyone in the country every time there were new cases. I could easily learn which areas I should be avoiding, as well as how much danger I was in. However, I'd say the work culture of Korea was (and still remains) damaging to this situation. Many firms, my company included, don't actually allow people to work from home. They just don’t trust their employees to do their job while at home. This results in crammed subways during rush hour, and an increased risk of getting the disease at work.
While I haven’t been tested myself, you can easily call your local clinic and do a drive-through test if you feel unwell.
I'm scared that there might be a huge second wave since people are moving about quite freely again. I also worry about the virus impacting countries with fewer resources, resulting in tragic deaths. I worry about the economic outcome, how bad the recession will be and how long it will last.
Caleb, 25, New York, USA
New York is not on official lockdown yet. However, non-essential businesses are closed and the cops are fining people gathering in large groups. The city is kind of eerie: bars and restaurants are shut down, the busy streets are almost entirely empty, with the exception of maybe a few isolated people going for walks.
The mood is somewhere between total indifference and panic. Many people (including my roommate, a hairdresser, who until last week was taking clients in our living room) still do not take the threat seriously and don't take adequate precautions, and so people who DO take it seriously suspect that the virus is not as contained as it should be.
Grocery stores are low on toilet paper, hand soap, and hand sanitizer, but food shelves are stocked. People are allowed to go for walks, but those walking in groups sometimes get yelled at by other people, and I believe the NYPD (New York Police Department) may start fining those who gather in public spaces.
I believe the US government's reaction was disgraceful. It is extremely hard to get tested for COVID-19. Shortages of test kits mean that most people can only be tested if they display severe symptoms (i.e. high fever + breathing difficulties). Those who test positive for COVID-19 can be hospitalized for now, but the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has stated publicly that the state does not have enough ventilators for all who will need them, which means people will die. The government projects 100,000-200,000 American deaths, and many of these will be because of our deplorable handling of the situation.
My parents are getting into their 60s, and I worry about them. My brother is also an EMT in Los Angeles, which has not yet been hit as hard by the virus, meaning he'll be on the front lines of it.
More generally, I feel terrified for older people and the poor. The older folks who survive the virus might see their retirement accounts wiped out by the financial crash, and uninsured people may be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars if they need to be hospitalized. I know the US was not prepared for the virus itself but I worry that it's not ready for its long-term effects either.
The views and opinions expressed above are those of the contributors and do not reflect the official policy or position of myUpchar.
For more information, read our article on How to deal with the anxiety of living through a pandemic.
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