Yokohama Tire and South Korea COVID -19 Pandemic Response, What We Can Learn

COVID-19 App on Cell Phone
COVID-19 App on Cell Phone

A Company and a Country COVID-19 Case Study

The Japanese Clark locator Company Yokohama Tire Philippines Inc, (YTPI) was recently commended for being able to maintain continuous operations of its Philippine factory throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.  Permission was recently given to continue their operations due to the company’s adherence to strict operational prevention and safety protocols. 

Local leaders from communities surrounding the plant and the greater Clark Freeport have praised this company’s efforts. These local community leaders were from the townships of Angeles City, Pampanga, Mabalacat, Pampanga and Bamban, Tarlac.  Mabalacat City Mayor Crisostomo Garbo gave the ok recently for the company to continue its operations. Angeles City Mayor Carmelo Lazatin, Jr. also expressed support for the company, offering to help in any way he can to maintain jobs during this crisis. 

YTPI is currently maintaining 80 percent production capacity. The company was able to utilize advanced safety equipment and safety measures to adequately mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in their work environment.  The policies and actions of YTPI’s executives allowed the company to continue operations, preserving the majority of the 2500 jobs at the plant thus far.  A remarkable accomplishment for any manufacturing company with that number of employees. 

The above case is one example, and proof that we are not rendered hopeless in the grips of a pandemic.  If, we are diligent and careful, utilize technology and are diligent, using learned measures to mitigate infectious spread, we can gain control over an otherwise uncontrollable enemy.  In the process we can continue our economy while minimizing the virus’s nefarious effects on our populous and economy.

We can also view other countries as models, while looking deeply at their methods used to minimize infections and deaths while maintaining their economies. Countries that have been able to bend the curve substantially include, New Zealand, Australia, and Norway. However, most noteworthy, given its proximity to the China where the outbreak occurred, is the example of South Korea.  

As of this writing, this technologically advanced nation of almost 52 million people has managed to keep their total COVID-19 deaths down to approximately 300, with a total of almost 14,000 confirmed cases.  As of this writing, compare this to countries such as the U.S. showing 146,000 deaths with 4.1 Million cases with ongoing deaths of over 1,000 per day.  While the U.S. has a population of approximately 328 million, the per-capita infection rate for the U.S. is 1.25%. Compare this to the South Korean infection rate of .027% which is a small fraction of a percent of the U.S. rate.  If you do the math, this works out to South Korea experiencing an infection rate of around 2% of the United States’ rate.

Even though South Korea experienced one of the world’s worst initial outbreaks early in the pandemic in mid-February 2020.  A single person transmitted the virus to many of the approximately 1,000 other worshipers in attendance that day at a mega-church Daegu, South Korea. The South Korean authorities were however vigilant, jumping on the task of interviewing approximately 230,000 members of the entire church members. They found several thousand exhibiting symptoms of the virus.  By the end of February, to a large extent, the result of this single infection, Korea had the most COVID-19 patients outside of China. 

The above the action of the government jumping on the threat of further infection was quite remarkable.  Essentially, most of the members of the church were contacted and in cases of infection, self-isolated or hospitalized depending on the severity. Cell phone location data was used to investigate additional contacts outside of the church’s congregation.  Many of those with milder cases, were sent to government converted, corporate training facilities, to isolate and obtain more limited medical attention. Within only a few days, government officials ensured that thousands of people in Daegu, the city where the outbreak occurred, were tested for the virus. Mask wearing became the mandated norm, with few if any people seen without a mask.  Within a month, the outbreak in South Korea was essentially contained. Since the early weeks of March 2020, the daily rate of new daily cases fell from 800 to only in a few dozen and even in the single digits up until this writing in late July 2020.     

Korea managed to curtail and contain the virus much better than most of the rest of the world. What did they do right?  In a sentence, strict, accurate, quick-result virus testing, diligent and advanced contact tracing, governmental involvement in the isolation of people at all levels of infection, and the implementation and compliance with rigorous, prevention measures such as mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing. Credit must also be given to the people of the country, whose diligence in conforming to governmental mandates and guidelines for mask wearing, social distancing and isolation were outstanding.

In conclusion, we must ask ourselves, what we can learn from employers such as Yokohama and counties like South Korea?   What aspects of their processes and procedures can we implement in our work environment and throughout our country? Our health, economy and quite literally our survival may just depend on it.