South Africa: A Silent Hero of the Coronavirus Crisis

Coronavirus (COVID-19) disease graphic.

As the US and countries in Europe move toward near-complete lockdown, with potentially disastrous consequences for the world economy, technology offers a glimmer of hope.

Not to diminish the superhuman efforts of nurses, doctors, and health-care workers worldwide, but sometimes, no matter how hard one tries, and no matter how selflessly one sacrifices, one stands no chance against a more powerful enemy. The new coronavirus, Covid-19, has proved to be such a foe. Were it not for technology, the battle against it would have been lost by now.

Maths and technology, to be more precise. I say maths, because understanding a concept as basic as "exponential growth" proved crucial for attacking the enemy head-on.

The successful containment of the epidemic in China, South Korea, and Japan has been attributed to strong governments and cultures that put society's good ahead of private convenience. I would add that these countries also stand out for their students' high maths literacy. In the 2019 PISA rankings, produced by the OECD, China ranks first in math with a score of 591 out of 600, Japan ranks 6th, and South Korea is 7th. By contrast, Italy is in 31st place, Spain places 34th, and the United...

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