So far the Western nations I'm aware of seem to be trending towards the Chinese/South Korean plan for coronavirus containment:

  1. Lockdown the entire country until the number of new cases is manageable

  2. Introduce localized quarantines and contact tracing to minimize the number of new infections

  3. Wait for the vaccine or cure

However point #3 is risky, as no one is sure if a vaccine can be at all created or if an effective enough cure can be developed. Therefore it might be tempting for some countries to go for an alternative approach in an attempt to balance the risks. Have any countries officially (or at least indirectly) announced such a plan? Some alternative solutions I'm aware of:

  1. "Do nothing"
  2. Isolating the elderly, but no general quarantine
  3. Chickenpox style variolation, similar to the pox parties of the past
  4. Maintaining a full lockdown from the world without having the virus locally - 22 countries report this so far

I am aware that the situation is currently evolving around the world, so I expect new answers to trickle in within the next months.

  • 1
    I know the UK was originally proposing 1, but backed off very quickly once they saw the estimated death figures. 4 seems more like a factor of luck than policy – did you get that policy in place before the virus started spreading in the country.
    – divibisan
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 20:37
  • how is inoculation different from vaccination? and smallpox was specifically one of the very first diseases that got vaccinated against, way before Pasteur's rabies. Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 21:09
  • 1
    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica A vaccine consists of either weakened/inactivated pathogen or, more commonly now, antigens from the pathogen that stimulate an immune response without containing any genetic material from pathogen. Inoculation, on the other hand, uses the actual, live pathogen in the hopes that they'll recover and gain immunity. What JonathanReez is talking about here is deliberately infecting people with nCov-19 while they're in quarantine, and hoping they'll be immune after recovery
    – divibisan
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 21:29
  • 1
    the link that is now supposed to concern chickenpox does not contain the word chickenpox, only smallpox. This hypothesis would be rather more convincing if you linked to a respected medical expert, as opposed to an economist. It makes sense that lower doses might be less lethal, but devil's in the details and I've yet to encounter any other article that proposes this approach. Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 22:42
  • 4
    Hi from Beijing: we're not waiting for a vaccine or cure. Currently we're gradually coming out of lockdown. Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 1:10

2 Answers 2


If depends quite a bit what you mean by "plans other than quarantine". There are of course efforts to test anti-virals and develop a vaccine. But the amount antivirals available might not suffice in the short run, even if they prove [safe and] effective.

Generally speaking however

Given the lack of testing in Europe and the US, the only way to keep the sick and healthy apart is to keep everyone apart. And that produces a recession.

And the alternative for that would be to test everyone. It's been done at small scale (you'll be amused where) in Italy, in the very first region hit, i.e. in the town of Vò. But the trouble is that testing capacity doesn't quite scale to the "test everyone in the country" presently... except maybe in Iceland, the only country I know of that that is doing random testing on a serious scale (relative to the country's size); but it's worth noting that there's convergence between random testing and the chunk of the population that gets tested in Iceland:

Iceland has tested a far greater proportion of its population than anywhere else on earth, including South Korea — another country touted for its effective response to the pandemic.

But what makes Iceland unique is that test samples are not only taken from ‘high risk’ individuals who have exhibited symptoms, came into contact with known carriers, or returned from countries such as China and Italy, they are also offered to thousands of ordinary members of its general population, who are nonsymptomatic.

On should not discount the level of quarantines imposed in Iceland either though:

Across this remote and rugged island nation of a little more than 364,000, as of Friday morning there were almost 10,000 men, women and children — equivalent to 9 million Americans — under this form of state-enforced lock and key.

So it's more like "more of everything" being done over there rather than "alternative plans".

If by plans you mean plans to relax the lockdowns at some point, every country is probably thinking/considering when they can do that. Economists have been spurred into providing answers to hard-choice questions that need to balance economic damage/recession with the lives saved (in the short run). See e.g.

Alas the experience of Hong Kong last week shows that lockdowns may [need to] return in some cases/areas...

I somehow missed the "odd man out", in this case, Bolsonaro:

In a televised address last week, he repeated a now well-worn phrase. "It's just a little flu or the sniffles," he said, blaming the media once again for the hysteria and panic over Covid-19.

A few days later, he clearly demonstrated his prioritisation of the economy over isolation measures favoured by the rest of the world.

"People are going to die, I'm sorry," he said. "But we can't stop a car factory because there are traffic accidents."

"Jair Bolsonaro is alone right now," says Brian Winter, editor-in-chief of the publication Americas Quarterly. "No other major world leader is denying the severity of this to the extent [...]

A few days ago, a video was shared by Jair Bolsonaro's son, Flavio - a politician himself.

The video's message, which claimed to come from the Brazilian government, was that "BRAZIL CAN'T STOP" (in Portuguese, #obrasilnãopodeparar). People need to keep working to keep the country safe and the economy growing.

So much so, in fact, that a federal judge on Saturday banned the government from campaigning against isolation measures. Government posts on social media using the hashtag were hastily removed.

"He's clearly laying the foundation of being able to say six months to a year from now that he did not agree with tough distancing measures, with the lockdown," says Oliver Stuenkel, Associate Professor of International Relations at the Getulio Vargas Foundation in Sao Paulo.

That kind of internal power struggle has happened to some extent in Pakistan too, although the military apparently gained the upper hand and managed to impose some level of lockdowns despite opposition from some politicians and clerics. And Khan (like Bolsonaro) also seems to hedge his bets:

Prime Minister Imran Khan, however, has appeared out of step with local provincial governments. He had previously said a "lockdown" would not be sustainable in Pakistan, as it would cause too much harm to those on low incomes.

After provincial governments went ahead and introduced measures tantamount to a "lockdown" anyway, Mr Khan attempted to explain he only opposed what he described as a "curfew," while also outlining some measures to protect the poorest in society, who are dependent on daily wages to feed their families. Unlike other Muslim countries, his government has not ordered an end to congregational prayers on Fridays.


In no particular order with non-exhaustive example countries:

Proactively trying to find cases e.g. seeking patients with severe respiratory symptoms - Taiwan, China

Mandatory daily health check at workplace - some companies in China

Mandatory health check of restaurant or hotel patrons - some restaurants and hotels in China

Facial recognition technology to detect if a person in a crowd has an elevated temperature or isn't wearing a mask - China developing if not already deployed

Contact tracing i.e. finding the people the infected person came into contact with, and following up with them - China, Taiwan, Singapore

Combining health insurance and borders databases to classify traveler risk; SMS sent to low risk for fast border clearance, to high risk for compulsory home quarantine - Taiwan

High risk patients prioritised for hospitalisation and testing - South Korea

Community case detection, i.e. citizens reporting to hotlines suspicious symptoms in themselves or others

Door-to-door monitoring, home visits to isolated

Drive-through testing - South Korea

Tracking app to alert you if you came into contact with or were near infected person - South Korea, China, Singapore

App to detect if person left isolation or quarantine and alert authorities - Hong Kong, South Korea

Compulsory isolation or quarantine of infected

Provision of food, frequent health checks and encouragement for quarantined - Taiwan

Quarantine of cluster areas including whole towns/cities - China

Preventing cruise ships from docking and releasing passengers - Taiwan, USA

Closing internal borders, restricting internal travel - China, Spain

Necessary journeys only

Closing international borders

Closing borders to travel from specific countries - Taiwan

Health checks on travelers from specific countries - Taiwan

Compulsory 14 day quarantine of travelers from specific countries - China, India

Compulsory one or two people per car - Spain

Compulsory fewer people on public transport

Reduced public transport services

Suspension of public transport services - parts of China

Restriction on number of times citizens are permitted to travel per week - parts of China

Postponent or cancellation of public festivities, mass gatherings, sporting events and such

Social distancing / contact limiting

Limits per customer per day of essential goods purchases e.g. toilet paper or face masks - China, Taiwan, parts of several other countries

Price capping of essential goods - Taiwan

Mass testing - South Korea

Mass production and distribution of face masks - Taiwan

Compulsory mask / nose and mouth covering when outdoors - Czechia, Slovakia, Spain, parts of China

Frequent broadcasts of necessity of social distancing and hand hygiene (and other measures the country might have)

Public space disinfection

Public shaming of rule-breakers - China

Fines for rule-breakers

Spreading fake news about epidemic punishable by fine - Taiwan

Creation of extra health service capacity, including building field hospitals and ICUs and calling for retired medics to temporarily return - UK

Increased production of equipment e.g. personal protective equipment and ventilators

Ordering private companies to manufacture certain equipment - USA

Donation of equipment to other countries - Taiwan

Short-term export ban of personal protective equipment - Taiwan

Affordable or free-at-point-of-use health service coverage (not a new intervention, of course, but does distinguish some countries from others)

I make no comment regarding the morality or efficacy of any of the above, which countries are 'best' or 'worst', it is just a list. You can look at the charts available online that compare countries and see in terms of numbers of cases or deaths which countries seem to be tackling it better than others.

  • I'm adding links / cites.
    – Lag
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 13:48

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