Yes, millions of people are living a relatively normal, coronavirus-free life


TORONTO -- Anything resembling "normal" may seem unfathomable as the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide dash past 80 million and Canada grapples with a second wave that far surpasses what it experienced in the spring.

It is a term that feels wildly out of place in 2020, but in some parts of the world where the virus has been all but eradicated, like Taiwan and Australia, life is about as close to "normal" as one can imagine during a global pandemic. spoke with half a dozen people experiencing a far different pandemic life and took a snapshot -- by no means an exhaustive look -- of what is happening in other parts of the world.

In some of these places, the willingness of local residents to follow protective measures has meant enviably less draconian restrictions and longer stretches of relative normalcy, and importantly, dramatically fewer cases and deaths. In others, “normal” was the result of extremely strict lockdown measures that virtually eliminated the virus. In several regions, they are also among the most densely populated in the world.

Wuhan, China, once the epicenter of the pandemic, is now the scene of a vibrant nightlife, packed nightclubs, and crowd-surfing fans at concerts, Reuters News recently documented. During China’s National Day “Golden Week” in October, 647 million people packed trains, cars and airplanes to travel throughout China, according to government estimates.

Vietnam has almost consistently recorded fewer than 20 daily new cases since mid-August and has had fewer than 1,500 confirmed cases and 35 deaths in total as of Dec. 31. The country’s success with containing the virus has allowed its economy to rebound faster, growing 2.69 per cent in the third quarter compared to a year earlier and 4.48 per cent in the fourth, according to government figures.

These examples and others stand in stark contrast to life in Canada, which has now reported more than 15,000 deaths related to the coronavirus, or the United States, which accounts for roughly a quarter the infections reported worldwide and which for a number of days in December was reporting a daily death toll that exceeded the total number of people who died on Sept. 11. In all, more than 340,000 people have died in the United States from the virus.

To be sure, some Canadians and Americans are also going about daily life normally too, but they do so amid uncontrolled spreadhospital ICUs fully occupied by COVID-19 patients, and record numbers of deaths. And even among places where infections remain relatively low, like Thailand and Singapore, it takes very little for circumstances to change.