Much is now in the international news concerning the burden of lockdown, the terrors of economic depression and slow recovery, and the need to reverse policies towards some relief of civil society. Seldom is anything written that does not also comment on the recent and present faults of COVID-19 management and governance. This is true in both the West and the East. However, although the record of the Western response is without doubt problematic, in the case of the six major states of East Asia the data still shows remarkable success in global context.

If we measure virus management in terms of the mortality rate, (deaths from the virus as a proportion of known cases) then the present world figure of around 7 percent is dominated by the core six Western nations (the U.S., Spain, Italy, France, the U.K. and Germany) with 2,131,514 cases (61 percent of world cases), and an average mortality rate of 8.5 percent, which contains the very high ratios of 15.4 percent for the U.K. and 14.7 percent for France. Contrast the six East Asian nations (China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong), with 127,918 cases (3.6 percent of world cases) and a mortality rate of 4.2 percent, containing the higher and weighty ratio of 5.6 percent for China. Excluding China, the East Asia mortality rate is 1.7 percent.

I for one do not believe that everyone east of India lies. I also know that this startling contrast has held for well over one month. Even with severe doubts over exact data veracity, there is an established “East Asian edge.” Despite fatigue, governance mistakes and general malaise, this should be borne in mind and remembered as the Global South begins to receive the full impact of virus invasion.

Ian Inkster
SOAS, University of London

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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