He has now banned foreign arrivals, closed restricted places and gatherings, tightened tests, opened quarantine centers and sentenced to prison terms for non-compliance. Tracking wristbands guarantee that people who are isolated must not leave their home.
Professor Ben Cowling, epidemiologist at the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, said that even if Hong Kong could claim to have prevented an epidemic so far, there was always a risk of seeing an epidemic with incoming travelers.
Hong Kong has never seen more than 11 confirmed cases in a day during the early stages of the epidemic. After thousands of people have returned home, the number regularly exceeds 50 and the city’s health system is under severe strain.
Taiwan’s response to the pandemic is considered one of the most successful in the world. He maintains a ban on foreign entrants, and with his still low infection rate – around 330 cases – is more focused on a spat with the World Health Organization.
Singapore is also seen as an example of good practice but is facing a potential second wave. Amid warnings of growing community “complacency”, the four deaths in Singapore and more than 60% of its approximately 1,000 confirmed cases have been confirmed in the past three weeks.
Singapore has imposed fines and prison terms for violating home orders, banning all short-term international visitors and transits, canceling mass gatherings and closing places, places of worship and establishments education.
This week, he announced that all long-term pass holders needed approval before entering the country and canceled the passport of a citizen who flouted residence orders.
Daily case reports from Japan increased slowly in January and February, reaching no more than 50 until last month. As it postponed a major epidemic, Tokyo became a concern, reporting a record number of cases for four consecutive days in late March.
The social distancing and foreclosure measures seem far more lax than its neighbors and there have been accusations of subtesting and speculation that the number of people infected is far higher than reported.
South Korea was once one of the worst sites of the epidemic, but after implementing aggressive contact tracing, quarantine and isolation, it appeared to take control. However, amid fears of a second wave, some health experts are asking the country to extend its entry ban, currently one of the most lax in the region.
In mainland China, the initial epidemic, which claimed thousands of lives, has slowed, but concerns remain over returnees and foreigners, all of whom have been denied entry, including those who a residence visa. Restrictions have been lifted in Hubei, but across the country, the movement of people is controlled by a color-coded health app.
This week, authorities have forced the closure of a Chinese county of 600,000 residents after a woman contracted the virus from asymptomatic doctors in a hospital.
A study published in the Lancet Public Health Journal said that the extreme restrictions imposed on Wuhan had helped to control the epidemic and that their lifting could see a second wave by August.
Dozens of new cases are reported daily in mainland China, almost all imported. However, there are charges of cover-ups, and it was only this week that Chinese health officials included asymptomatic people who tested positive – estimated at 18-31% of cases – among its reported number.
China’s national health commission said that on Tuesday 20,000 people were being observed as possible silent carriers, and chairman Xi Jinping, while visiting Zhejiang, called for more focus on asymptomatic cases.