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States relax coronavirus restrictions, but Japan and Germany offer lessons from too-quick reopenings

Some states and counties are reopening, in some cases too soon. The White House has released benchmarks to determine when a state or county can reopen, but states such as Georgia, Colorado and Texas are reopening without meeting them. 

When governments reopen too soon, they are at risk for a rapid increase of coronavirus infection rates. Japan and Germany offer examples of what could happen if state and local governments open up too many businesses too soon. 

In Japan, the island of Hokkaido was one of the first to take measures to close businesses and institute lockdown orders. The area suffered heavy economic losses from tourism, trade of resources, and other sectors of business. After suffering through a month of lockdown, the prefecture opened up for business going into a three-day weekend.

While Hokkaido locals were enjoying these lax restrictions en masse, people from other regions traveled to the area to enjoy them as well. This produced a sharp increase in the coronavirus infection rate, about 80%. 

In Germany, even a slow reopening has still caused an increase in the virus’ reproduction rate. According to Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, this rate—aka “R0,” which refers to how many people the average infected person, in turn, infects—has increased from 0.7 at the height of testing and stay-at-home measures to 1.0, meaning that each person is infecting at least one other person. 

While no state has completely reopened, President Trump has expressed displeasure with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp for implementing reopening measures too soon. But a few days after Trump’s criticism, a headline on Politico told a different tale, writing, “Trump’s next coronavirus pivot: Celebrate America’s grand reopening.”

Sources: Time, Marketwatch, The White House, New York Times, Politico


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