Both quickly set up systems to try to identify and treat every case in their territory. Hong Kong developed diagnostic tests and rapidly deployed them to labs at every major hospital in the city. At one point in February, Hong Kong had 12,000 people in quarantine. Singapore’s prime minister called for calm and assured residents that all health care related to the disease would be free.
Both Hong Kong and Singapore continue to find a few new cases each week, but they’ve avoided the explosive outbreaks that have occurred elsewhere.
Ashish Jha, who runs the Harvard Global Health Institute, says the response to the coronavirus has varied dramatically around the world. “Some countries have been very aggressive and have actually done quite a good job,” he says. “Other countries have been quite lackadaisical and, I think, have suffered immensely from it. And I think there are lessons to be learned for all of us.”
Italy and Iran both fall in the latter category. Jha says that before cases of COVID-19 were first diagnosed, Italy and Iran appeared to be in denial about the disease.