The Corner


Asia’s Not Really Out of the Woods Yet, Either

People wearing face masks at a park after the lockdown was lifted in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, April 12, 2020. (Aly Song/Reuters)

Remember when many Americans felt like our response to coronavirus was below par, but at least a group of Asian countries looked like they knew what they were doing, and were demonstrating a model the rest of the world could emulate?

It turns out everybody’s got problems, in one way or another.

Perhaps the most eye-opening and troubling reports come from Japan:

Hospitals in Japan are increasingly turning away sick people as the country struggles with surging coronavirus infections and its emergency medical system collapses.

In one recent case, an ambulance carrying a man with a fever and difficulty breathing was rejected by 80 hospitals and forced to search for hours for a hospital in downtown Tokyo that would treat him. Another feverish man finally reached a hospital after paramedics unsuccessfully contacted 40 clinics.


Singapore today recorded 1,426 new COVID-19 infections, bringing its total to more than 8,000 in a population of nearly 6 million people. It now has the highest number of reported cases in Southeast Asia.

Last week, authorities announced they would put all dormitories housing foreign workers — some 300,000 people, mostly from Bangladesh, China and India — under near-total lockdown. In the days that followed, Singapore reported 728 new cases — almost all of them migrant workers.

Singapore’s “circuit breaker” restrictions are extended to June 1.

Malaysia’s experiencing a second wave of infections — new cases are dropping, appearing to peak at 217 new cases on April 3.

By a lot of measures, South Korea offered one of the most effective responses; new cases have dropped from a high of more than 800 new daily infections at the peak of the outbreak to the low double digits and even single digits. They even held an election last week, with high turnout and, it appears, few worries about spreading the virus. (Apparently lots of things are possible when your population almost uniformly wears masks and exercises social distancing at all times.) That’s the good news. The bad news is South Korean’s economy is dependent upon exports and is getting hammered. Electronic manufacturers, car makers, shipbuilders — just about every sector of the South Korean economy is experiencing an unprecedented slump.

Taiwan continues to do well overall, but is dealing with an outbreak on one of its naval ships.

Oddly, Vietnam was one of the first countries outside China to report a confirmed case . . . but they have no new cases reported for several days.