China is testing restaurant workers and delivery drivers block by block. South Korea tells people to wear two types of masks for different social risk situations. Germany requires communities to crack down when the number of infections reaches certain thresholds.
Across the world, governments that seemed to have tamed the coronavirus are adjusting to the reality that the disease is here to stay. But in a shift from nationwide blockages that harm the economy, they are looking for specific ways to find and stop outbreaks before becoming the third or fourth wave.
While the details differ, the strategies require flexibility or tighten or loosen regulations as necessary. They require a combination of intensive testing and monitoring, rapid response times by authorities, strict border management, and constant reminders to their citizens of the dangers of frequent human contact.
The strategies often compel central governments and local officials to share data and work closely together, overcoming incompatible computer systems, territorial battles, and other long-standing bureaucratic rivalries. In Britain, some local officials say their efforts are not sufficiently coordinated.
The shifting strategies are an acknowledgment that even the most successful countries cannot declare victory until a vaccine is found. They also show the challenge faced by countries such as the United States, Brazil and India, where authorities never contained the initial outbreaks and from where the coronavirus will continue to threaten to spread.
“He will always be with us,” said Dr. Simon James Thornley, an epidemiologist at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. “I don’t think we can eliminate the virus in the long term. We are going to need to learn to live with the virus. “
Even in places where the coronavirus seemed to be under control, large outbreaks remain a major risk. In Tokyo, there have been 253 new infections in the past week, 83 from a nightlife district. In Gütersloh in western Germany, more than 1,500 workers at a meat-processing plant tested positive, prompting authorities to close the district. South Korea has announced dozens of new infections in the past few days.