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  • Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic.

  • 75 per cent of the world's new coronavirus cases

  • are now being reported in Europe.

  • And in the worst affected countries, Italy and Spain,

  • death tolls are rising faster than they

  • did in China at the very start of the epidemic.

  • Other European countries and the US

  • are expected to follow Italy's lead.

  • If they do, it's predicted that death rates in these countries

  • will continue to climb by 33 per cent every day.

  • This is despite signs that China is getting the outbreak there

  • under control.

  • And neighbouring countries, like Hong Kong and Singapore,

  • have managed to contain the virus more effectively

  • than Europe.

  • So why the difference between east and west?

  • And what could it mean for the west's recovery?

  • The first reason is the lack of testing

  • that western health services have been able to carry out.

  • We have a simple message for all countries - test, test, test.

  • The World Health Organisation has made its position

  • on testing absolutely clear.

  • You can't know what you're up against until you

  • know who's infected.

  • South Korea set up drive-through centres

  • designed to keep people away from hospitals

  • and to deliver results to them within hours.

  • It's meant that they've been able to test thousands

  • more potentially infected people every day,

  • all helping isolation efforts and reducing

  • the risk of spread.

  • Meanwhile, testing in most western countries

  • is somewhere between a quarter and a tenth

  • of Korea's capacity.

  • The reason testing is so inadequate

  • in the west is down to another key factor, lack of resources.

  • There's simply aren't enough testing kits to go around.

  • But that's no longer the most important concern.

  • While Japan and South Korea have seven hospital

  • beds per 1,000 people, the UK, US and Italy have just two.

  • And Western countries are scrambling

  • to repurpose ventilators, which are going

  • to be needed for patients with severe symptoms,

  • even committing to building them from scratch in some cases.

  • Beyond the physical capability of health systems

  • to test for and treat the disease,

  • there are many more less tangible differences

  • between east and west, which may create just

  • as much divergence between each region's coronavirus response.

  • Call it culture, politics, behaviour - for me,

  • it comes down to mentality.

  • China was able to impose strict sanctions because of the way

  • Beijing governs its people from top down.

  • But eastern democracies have done a better job

  • of containing the virus by being transparent and clear

  • in their public health instructions.

  • And the people in those countries have obeyed.

  • The leaders of the US and the UK have

  • started to speak more openly and more often

  • to the general public.

  • But the reaction of people across Europe

  • has, to put it mildly, been mixed.

  • This isn't wagging the finger at western democracies.

  • The response was the same in the east

  • when Sars first hit in 2003.

  • But since that shared trauma the countries worst affected

  • have reacted by overhauling their health

  • systems to make sure they were prepared for the next crisis.

  • Those hard lessons have put them in good stead.

  • Whereas the west is catching up with a crisis

  • it never really expected.

  • Europe and the United States will likely

  • take longer to adapt, which means more cases, more deaths,

  • and a longer recovery period.

  • But if there is any long-term consolation,

  • it's that lessons will be learned,

  • both from the eastern experience and from our own.

Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic.

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B1 FinancialTimes west europe testing western health

Coronavirus: why the west will be hit harder FT

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    洪子雯 posted on 2020/03/19
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