Has Anywhere Been Successful in the Fight Against COVID19?

Has Anywhere Been Successful in the Fight Against COVID19?

Caitlin Neall-Johnston, Editor of Global

Living in Southern California, we have seen and experienced a fair few events that warrant school closing. More commonly wildfires, but sometimes earthquakes, and atrociously- shootings. Missing school is not as uncommon as in some areas of the world. Yet no one would have predicted prolonged school closures due to a pandemic. To go from business as usual to panic buying and mandatory distancing in seemingly the blink of an eye had most reeling in surprise. Although, compared to other nations, the U.S.’ response to the Covid-19 outbreak was relatively slow and fumbled. How does one prepare for the unexpected and was anyone truly ready to face the coronavirus? 

As it turns out, the places with the most success originally, in battling the coronavirus were Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, despite being right on China’s doorstep. These places all took similar steps to ensure the virus was contained. These steps included being prepared, taking immediate action, establishing clear communication, and enforcing regulations. However, recent reports have shown that these countries are being hit by a second wave. Singapore now has the highest number of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, the strategies they aimed to employ are still valid and can be applied to other places dealing with the virus. 

An important step initially taken by Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong was fast and immediate action, regardless of limited information on the virus. For example, Singapore cancelled all flights from Wuhan, with Hong Kong and Taiwan following with similar bans. These travel restrictions occurred despite the World Health Organization claiming such measures were unnecessary. These countries also suspended large social gatherings early on. 

A major factor that allowed Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong to act quickly was that they were prepared from the 2003 SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak. SARS, whose symptoms and transmission are similar to COVID-19, devastated Asia in late 2002 – early 2003. Because of this, many Asian nations have measures in place for other possible outbreaks. After the 2003 outbreak, Taiwan created a central command center for epidemics, that has been key in monitoring COVID-19. The SARS outbreak also made it easier for citizens to fall back into good sanitation habits. 

An example of text communication on COVID19 between Singaporeans and their government.

In times of crisis, clear communication is essential in stopping the spread of blind panic. Singapore gives an exemplary example of coherent communication between the government and the Singaporeans. A country-wide WhatsApp chat was set up that gave daily updates on the number of confirmed cases, the whereabouts of these cases, the number of deaths, and the number of people discharged, alongside other pertinent information concerning the virus. This seems a much more effective strategy than blatantly suppressing cases to keep numbers down. These governments also ensured that regulations, such as quarantines, were followed and issued rewards and penalties as an incentive to stay home.

Despite an uptick in new cases in Southeast Asia, many of the ideas used have proved successful in other places. For example, New Zealand began strict lockdowns on the 25th of March and their prime minister, Jacinda Arden, gave daily intelligible statements, backed by a team of scientists. New Zealand’s cases of COVID19 significantly dropped, and the country began to eradicate the virus from their shores. Whilst strategies such as being prepared and taking immediate action are unhelpful in our current situation, we can definitely employ clear communication and stern regulations to ease the impacts. 


Sources/Further Reading

Barron, Laignee. “Coronavirus Lessons From Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.” Time, Time, 13 Mar. 2020, time.com/5802293/coronavirus-covid19-singapore-hong-kong-taiwan/.

Cowling, Benjamin J., and Wey Wen Lim. “They’ve Contained the Coronavirus. Here’s How.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Mar. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/03/13/opinion/coronavirus-best-response.html.

Hsu, Li Yang, et al. “What Singapore Can Teach the U.S. about Responding to Covid-19.” STAT, 23 Mar. 2020, www.statnews.com/2020/03/23/singapore-teach-united-states-about-covid-19-response/.

Schwoerer, Kai, and Phil Walter. “New Zealand Has ‘Effectively Eliminated’ Coronavirus. Here’s What They Did Right.” National Geographic, 30 Apr. 2020, www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/2020/04/what-new-zealand-did-right-in-battling-coronavirus/.