I think empathy has not evolved to be able to deal with death and suffering that’s not immediately close to ourselves. Millions of years ago we didn’t have to know what was going on with humans in another continent or even just another tribe. Now we do, but I’m convinced that our brains just didn’t have time to adapt to this whole information thing.
Heck, I have cried about dead birds and nice on the streets. I consider myself as having empathy. But even for me it’s hard to “feel" for someone who I don’t know and especially if far away. This has been true long before corona, during wars and natural catastrophes and what have you.
Apart from Covid19 deniers, and nutty/conspiracy types, I believe that most of the people who appear indifferent now surely wouldn’t if someone close to them were affected.
In my opinion it’s only the ability of a population to override this empathy deficit with intellect that determines the success of any strategy against infection.
Americans (and some of us Europeans) are not too good at that. East Asians appear to be much better at handling it.