As the U.S. continues to coordinate its response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, other countries throughout the world have been doing the same. On Wednesday, Dr. Paul Farmer joined Boston Public Radio to discuss strategies that have helped countries like South Korea keep the toll of the novel coronavirus low.
A physician and co-founder of Partners in Health, Farmer has spent his career on the frontlines of several global epidemics, including the Ebola outbreak in West Africa during the mid 2010’s.
He listed Rwanda as one of the countries the U.S. could learn from as it deals with the coronavirus, pointing to their efficient pandemic response systems the country developed during past outbreaks.
“The Rwandan [response]… it was so impressive to see how much industry was going into staff, stuff, space, systems… and the systems part especially. Because yes, they could muster a MASH-type hospital quickly. But they were really, really focused on the systems issues, and I think that’s where the United States would compare unfavorably.”
To South Korea, which has dramatically slowed the number of new coronavirus cases, Farmer said it was a combination of two key factors that made the difference.
"I think what they had was an approach that integrated aggressive case finding and isolation with proper care,” he said. "In other words, they did not allow containment or mitigation to replace the need to identify and care for the sick. How do I know that? Well, their case fatality rate was very low.”
Paul Farmer is a physician and anthropologist. He’s the chief strategist and cofounder of Partners In Health, and the Kolokotrones University Professor and chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School.