The United States has been widely criticized for its approach to the coronavirus pandemic, and the lack of strict nationwide measures to contain the outbreak is reflected in the highest number of cases and deaths in the world.
Yet even countries lauded for their fast and effective responses to Covid-19 are seeing large outbreaks and resurgences of the infection, as it becomes clear that successes in containing the virus are often only temporary.
Hong Kong was praised for its rapid response back in January, when it implemented measures including virus mapping, social distancing, encouraging hand-washing and other protective steps.
Its government took further action to curb a second wave in March, as Hong Kong residents began returning to the city, bringing the virus back with them. Authorities barred non-residents from entering Hong Kong, halted transit through the city’s airport, and implemented strict quarantine and testing on arrivals.
Gyms were closed, alcohol sales prohibited in bars, and restaurants and cafes were shuttered or installed extra safety measures.
For many weeks, daily virus cases were down to single digits, and sometimes zero.
Despite all this, the semi-autonomous region has been facing a “third wave” of infections since July 6, with authorities warning of potential “exponential growth” in cases.
On Friday, the city confirmed 123 cases, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began, according to health officials. Public gatherings were capped at four people again after the limit had risen to 50, gyms were closed and incoming travelers must now show evidence of a negative test.
The city has introduced a mask mandate for the first time, although many of its citizens wore them anyway.
“If this trend continues, it [will be] very difficult to handle the situation,” said Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan of Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection, warning that the city’s testing capacity, quarantine facilities and hospital capacity were reaching the limit. In total, the city has reported 2,372 Covid-19 cases, and people are now being urged to stay at home.
Australia was another country held up as the gold standard for its pandemic response.
On February 1, Australia joined the US in closing its borders to foreign visitors who had recently been in China. As the virus spread, Australia barred entries from Iran, South Korea and Italy in early March, before closing its borders to all non-citizens and non-residents on March 19.
The country banned public gatherings and non-essential travel as part of a series of restrictions in late March and, for a time, the outbreak was considered broadly under control.
A spokesperson for the Australian Department of Health said in a statement to CNN in early May that “we have well and truly flattened the curve of cases and new infections.”
On May 8, Australian Prime…