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Asia Minute: Socially Distant in Asia

Koji Sasahara/AP

It’s been three weeks today since Oahu has been under “stay at home” orders, and just about that long for most other major islands in the state. “Social distancing” was put into place in many places in Asia around that same time, but at differing levels.

“Social distancing” is generally understood to mean avoiding crowds and staying away from others 6 feet. Or up to two meters if you’re metrically-minded – that’s about six and a half feet.

Beyond distancing, there have been different reactions to COVID-19 around Asia, and different timing.

China was first to the novel coronavirus and to shutdowns, and stay at home orders. A bit later, Hong Kong was relatively quick to close schools, museums and public buildings — as well as nightclubs and mah-jongg parlors – but not restaurants.

Singapore kept its schools open – closing them just last week.

South Korea started some social distancing on March 21st, but was even faster with widespread testing, and screening all arriving air passengers starting more than a month ago.

Curfews have been part of life in certain areas of the Philippines since the middle of March. While a national curfew went into effect in Thailand in early April.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cancelled the Tokyo Olympics on March 24th, but did not order broad national actions. Measures were more regionalized, the northern island of Hokkaido declared a temporary state of emergency in late February, but it was only last week when Abe declared a state of emergency in several regions of the country — including Tokyo.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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