The outbreak has highlighted underlying weaknesses in medical care in Japan, which has long been praised for its high-quality insurance system and reasonable costs. Apart from a general unwillingness to embrace social distancing, experts fault government incompetence and a widespread shortage of personal protective gear and equipment that medical workers need to do their jobs.
Now that the US is contemplating a shift into the second phase of the crisis – a tentative reopening of the economy – scientists and public health officials are agreed that three pillars need to be put into place to manage the transition safely. They are: mass testing to identify those who are infected, contact tracing to isolate other people who may have caught Covid-19 from them, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield frontline healthcare workers from any flare-up.
In truth, it is not clear to anyone where this crisis is leading us. More than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history shared their thoughts on the future during in-depth interviews. When can we emerge from our homes? How long, realistically, before we have a treatment or vaccine? How will we keep the virus at bay?
Some felt that American ingenuity, once fully engaged, might well produce advances to ease the burdens. The path forward depends on factors that are certainly difficult but doable, they said: a carefully staggered approach to reopening, widespread testing and surveillance, a treatment that works, adequate resources for health care providers — and eventually an effective vaccine.
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