Britain will start mass testing and contact tracing, but other countries are way ahead.
As the British government prepares to rolls out a large-scale track and trace system designed to prevent a second major wave of infections, other countries’ experiences offer case studies — and cautionary tales.
Starting on Thursday, anyone in Britain who suffers potential symptoms of Covid-19 will be tested and, if positive, be asked to list everyone with whom they have recently been in close contact for at least 15 minutes. Those people, in turn, will be contacted and asked to isolate themselves for 14 days.
Britain’s program is the latest in similar campaigns around the world that serve as tests of how testing and contact tracing affect transmission of the virus. The results so far are mixed.
In the United States, large-scale testing of people who might have been infected did not happen as the virus spread with ferocity between late January and early March. The result was a lost month, when the world’s richest country — armed with some of the most highly trained scientists and infectious disease specialists — squandered its best chance of containing the virus’s spread.
But even countries that have provided ample testing have not escaped second-wave infections. Notably, Singapore meticulously traced the close contacts of every infected patient from the start, and shut its borders to populations likely to carry the contagion. But a few months later, caseloads began to soar within crowded dormitories where migrant laborers live unnoticed by many of the country’s richer residents — and, as it turned out, the government itself.
South Korea successfully reduced what had been one of the largest outbreaks outside China to a trickle through widespread testing and contact tracing. But recently dozens of new cases have raised fears that another wave of infections is imminent.
South Korea reported 79 new cases on Thursday, the country’s highest daily caseload since April 5. The uptick was due largely to an outbreak in a home delivery logistics center south of Seoul that has reported 69 patients among its workers.
Other countries have prioritized tracing over testing, or vice versa. In Japan, for example, the government limited tests to only the most severe cases and instead focused on contact tracing.
Medical experts worried that Japan’s approach would blind the country to the spread of infection and allow cases to explode, but that hasn’t happened. Japan has one of the lowest mortality rates from Covid-19 among major nations; its medical system has not been overwhelmed; and its government never forced businesses to close, although many did by choice.
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has big dreams for his country’s soccer future. “My biggest hope for Chinese soccer is that its teams become among the world’s best,” he said in 2015.
This won’t be the year for that. Even before professional play has had a chance to begin in 2020, China’s top leagues have already lost more than a fifth of their teams, the result of longstanding financial woes compounded by the coronavirus shutdown.
The Chinese Football Association announced on Saturday that 11 clubs had been disqualified because they owed wages to players, coaches and staff members. Five other teams — including Tianjin Tianhai, from the top-division Chinese Super League — withdrew on their own. Tianjin Tianhai said that its financial situation had reached “desperate straits.”
The Super League will have 16 teams this year, the association said, with Shenzhen Football Club replacing Tianjin Tianhai in the league’s ranks. A start date to its season still hasn’t been announced.
Some of the Chinese clubs that are out this year began folding months ago, before the epidemic led to the suspension of professional play and ticket sales.
China has no shortage of passionate soccer fans. Emboldened by Mr. Xi’s support for the game, investors have piled into Chinese clubs, helping them spend on expensive foreign talent, including the Brazilian forward known as Hulk. But the three leagues’ popularity has fallen short of owners’ lofty dreams, particularly for lower-division clubs.
For some clubs that have not been kicked out of their leagues, there is another problem. A third of foreign players and coaches are trapped outside of China because of the country’s tight pandemic-related entry restrictions, the soccer association’s president told a state-run broadcaster this month.
Nissan and Renault, the quarrelsome main partners in the world’s largest automaking alliance, announced a plan on Wednesday to try to reset their troubled relationship as they seek to survive the coronavirus’s devastating impact on the car industry.
The plan seeks to more clearly delineate each company’s turf so they can better absorb catastrophic declines in sales while developing new technologies they need to remain competitive.
For example, Nissan will take the lead on development of autonomous driving technology and Renault will be in charge of developing electric vehicles.
Nissan will be the dominant partner in Japan, China and the United States, while Renault will take the lead in Europe, Russia, Africa and Latin America. Mitsubishi, which is also a member of the alliance, will be in charge of the rest of Asia.
The alliance has been in crisis since the arrest of its former chairman, Carlos Ghosn, in 2018 on accusations of financial wrongdoing, which he has denied. Without Mr. Ghosn’s dominant presence at the top, simmering tensions and jealousies burst into the open.
But breaking up was not an option. On the contrary, the pandemic has made it even more essential for the companies to cooperate and share the enormous cost of developing new models and technology.
Global demand for automobiles has gone into free fall during the lockdowns, battering both companies when they were already in a weakened state.
Just over four months after the government confirmed the first known case, more than 100,000 people who had the coronavirus have died in the United States, according to a New York Times tally.
As the U.S. neared the milestone, President Trump flew to Florida on Wednesday in the hopes of watching the first launch of NASA astronauts into orbit from the United States in nearly a decade. But threatening weather led the launch to be postponed until Saturday at the earliest. Eager to attach himself to the return of manned spaceflight, he wrote on Twitter that he would return for the rescheduled launch.
By then, the death toll will have inched higher still. More than 1.6 million people in the country have been infected, and while hard-hit northeastern states have reported decreases in new cases in recent days, and the pace of deaths nationwide has fallen, health experts warn of a possible resurgence as lockdowns are lifted.
Here’s what else is happening in the U.S.:
Remembering those we’ve lost.
José María Galante relentlessly gathered evidence of torture and other abuses committed during the Franco dictatorship in Spain. He did so for decades, despite an amnesty law passed two years after Franco’s death in 1975 that was designed to help smooth Spain’s return to democracy.
Mr. Galante died on March 29 in a Madrid hospital. He was 71. His partner, Justa Montero, said the cause was Covid-19.
Here are some of the others we’ve lost to Covid-19 complications:
Yu Lihua, 90, whose nuanced portraits of overseas Chinese students and intellectuals in America captured the cultural displacement and identity crisis felt by many in the Chinese diaspora.
Tendol Gyalzur, who fled Tibet during the 1959 Tibetan uprising and returned after more than three decades to start the region’s first private orphanages. She was believed to be 69.
John Houghton, 88, a Welsh climate scientist and influential figure in the United Nations panel that brought the threat of climate change to the world’s attention.
Reporting was contributed by Ben Dooley, Jack Ewing, John Schwartz, Amy Qin, Stephen Kurczy, Raphael Minder, Choe Sang-Hun, Mark Landler, Stephen Castle, Andrew Das, Ian Austen, Raymond Zhong and Mike Ives.