COVID-19: Lessons from Three Smart Small Asian Nations

Part 2. Hong Kong

 By Shlomo Maital

   Hong Kong is officially known as “the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China”. It has 7.4 million people and GDP per capita of some $46,000 – higher than that of Israel.

   Here, according to the New York Times, is how Hong Kong dealt with the COVID-19 crisis, influenced strongly from its traumatic experience with SARS in 2003:

  “ Hong Kong’s heavy death toll from SARS, nearly 300 people, has spurred residents in the semiautonomous Chinese territory to exercise vestigial muscles of disease prevention this time around, even as the local authorities initially dithered on whether to close the border with mainland China. Nearly everyone, it seemed, began squirting hand sanitizer. Malls and offices set up thermal scanners.”

   “The most important thing is that Hong Kong people have deep memories of the SARS outbreak,” said Kwok Ka-ki, a lawmaker in Hong Kong who is also a doctor. “Every citizen did their part, including wearing masks and washing their hands and taking necessary precautions, such as avoiding crowded places and gatherings.”

   “The Hong Kong government eventually caught up to the public’s caution. Borders were tightened. Civil servants were ordered to work from home, prompting more companies to follow suit. Schools were closed in January, until at least the end of April.”

     “On Tuesday, the government of Hong Kong, where only 157 cases have been confirmed, announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all travelers from abroad beginning later this week.”

     SARS outbreak occurred nearly 17 years ago, in 2003. Despite this, the memory of SARS and the measures adopted at that time are fresh in the minds of Hong Kong citizens. It was the people of Hong Kong who acted, even before the government and administrative officials took action, in the COVID-19 outbreak.

     I am certain the same will be true of COVID-19. We will remain this for generations. And hopefully, in the next pandemic, we will act promptly, as Hong Kong did.