coronavirus around the world
November 30, 2020

Back in March and April, when the novel coronavirus was still new and mask-wearing and social distancing foreign, the U.S. rolled out a bunch of ads explaining best COVID-19 practices for keep yourself and others safe. Some of them, like Paul Rudd's PSA for New York and Lego's Batman and Star Wars ads were amusing and informative. Others haven't aged so well.

The U.S. is now setting new records for COVID-19, including topping 200,000 new infections on Friday alone, and top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Sunday about a possible "surge upon a surge" in the weeks after Thanksgiving. A vaccine is coming, he added, and "if we can hang together as a country and do these kinds of things to blunt these surges until we get a substantial proportion of the population vaccinated, we can get through this."

The U.S. isn't going through this alone, of course, and some foreign governments, companies, and artists have tried different ways of communicating the severity of the virus and the need to stop the spread of the coronavirus. As COVID fatigue crashes into the holidays, here are six creative ways other countries have tried to keep up the fight.

1. Germany created an instant classic in November that lightly tugged at the patriotic impulse while highlighting both the stakes and the relatively low cost of serving the greater good.

2. Turkey's Süleyman Hacıcaferoğlu took some animated matchsticks created in the spring by Spanish artists Juan Declan and Valentina Izaguirre, threw on the Mission: Impossible theme song, and created an arresting visual representation of how the virus spreads — and stops.

3. South Africa drew on the ick factor to encourage mask wearing.

4. Vietnam's health department produced an animated ad with a "Jealous Coronavirus" song that is so catchy, it became a bona fide hit in the country.

5. Singapore created its own pop hit, "Singapore Be Steady," with actor Gurmit Singh in character as Phua Chu Kang.

6. In Croatia, Karlovacko beer got its social distancing message across in a language that is probably universal: the disapproving look of a potential parent-in-law. Watch below. Peter Weber

May 20, 2020

More than 70 percent of Israeli coronavirus samples sequenced in a Tel Aviv University study had genetic markers indicating the virus was imported from the U.S., despite the fact that only 27 percent of all positive-testing visitors to Israel arrived from America, The New York Times reports. Israel barred visitors from the U.S. on March 9, two weeks after shutting off travel from some European countries. Had Americans been blocked from entering on Feb. 26 also, the researcher conclude, "a substantial fraction of the transmission chains in Israel would have been prevented."

The researchers sequenced genomes from more than 200 randomly selected but representative COVID-19 patients from six hospital across the country. Israel has reportedly 16,650 COVID-19 cases and 277 deaths, but only 1 percent of the population has been infected with the coronavirus, said Dr. Adi Stern, lead author of the study, which has not yet been peer reviewed. At the same time, he added, Israel was able to cut its rate of transmission by two-thirds through a combination of enforced social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and closing down foreign tourism. Peter Weber

April 30, 2020

While experts around the world debate the merits of different strategies for addressing the coronavirus pandemic, Turkmenistan has its own novel solution for eliminating the virus: banning it from being mentioned. In the former Soviet republic, it has become illegal to use the word "coronavirus" in official documents or news media or to wear face masks in public, reports Radio Free Europe.

The Central Asian nation has reported zero cases of the virus, but Radio Free Europe suggests that hundreds of people previously held in quarantine zones are being moved ahead of an official visit by the World Health Organization. While health experts have questioned the reliability of infection figures from Turkmenistan, which borders hard-hit Iran, the country's foreign minister Rashid Meredov has insisted that his country so far been spared. "If there was a single confirmed coronavirus case, we would have immediately informed ... the World Health Organization in line with our obligations."

This is not the first time Turkmenistan has been criticized for its lack of transparency. The global free speech organization Reporters Without Borders has ranked Turkmenistan 178 out of 180 in its Press Freedom Index, just ahead of Eritrea and North Korea.

Despite his country's reported lack of infections, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who is also a rapper and a dentist, has offered advice to public health experts on combating the virus with herbal remedies. Matthew Walther

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