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How Singapore Prepared for the COVID-19 and Other Countries Should Take Notes




  • The city state learned well from their experiences during the SARS and H1N1 outbreaks.
  • They implemented stricter travel regulations and worked on finding the social contacts of the patients.
  • Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea also prepared well for the COVID-19.

Coronavirus is not the first epidemiological nightmare experienced by Singapore. This is why the country was able to prepare itself well for it – they took lessons from their bout with the SARS virus that happened in 2002-2003.

SARS, which originated in China and killed 33 people in Singapore, was responsible for the massive revisions to the latter’s public health system. According to Martin Hibberd, an infectious disease researcher who worked in Singapore during the SARS outbreak, Singapore realized that they want to invest in the healthy system for the future as preparation if something similar happens in the future.

This led to new travel controls and health infrastructure instituted in Singapore. When the H1N1 influenza hit in 2009, the city state tried to apply what they learned from the SARS experience.

Singapore learned well from the 2002 SARS outbreak

It turned out that the influenza was much harder to contain than SARS. The experts in Singapore realized that what they thought they learned previously did not work this time. Thus, it became another lesson for them.

So when COVID-19 happened, Singapore seems to be more prepared to tackle the challenge. They applied stricter travel controls and protocols for identifying sick individuals.

South Korea also implements strict temperature control at the airport.

This makes it easier for them to find the people that the sick individuals have been in contact with.

The government provides thorough details – they accounted how many people they have tested for the virus and they posted the locations of those individuals’ social contacts.

This was also done by Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. Along with Singapore, these countries implememted strict social distancing rules. They cancelled public events, closed schools, and ordered people to stay at home.

These resulted to considerably lower numbers of infected people and lower fatalities, as compared to China or Italy. Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, stressed the importance of detailed data.

He said:

“Highly detailed surveillance data will be critical for understanding the outbreak. It is this sort of detailed analysis that will be critical for answering key questions about the role of asymptomatic people and children in transmission.”

Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong developed their own tests for COVID-19 as soon as the genetic sequences for the coronavirus was released. They sped up production of the materials needed to carry out those tests.

These nations took control over immigration and made adjustments to their financial systems to ensure that people don’t have to pay for the tests or treatment.

Other measures implemented by Singapore include frequently updating multiple government websites where people can get information and maintained a government WhatsApp account. Temperature check is strictly monitored for people entering most buildings in the country.

A worker disinfecting in one of the districts in Taiwan.

Other countries such as the United States and the ones in Europe should learn from the initiatives of these Asian nations. Perhaps it might have helped the situation in Italy, which at present have already resulted to hundreds of deaths and have severely overwhelmed the hospital system.

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