Since the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) in Wuhan, China, it has spread globally through human-to-human transmission. With Singapore, Japan and Thailand being one of the worst affected countries outside of China, the regional, if not global, effects are widespread as governments and citizens alike go into defense mode and take the necessary precautions. Here’s a look at how some countries have responded.
As a major financial and traveller hub in Asia, it’s no wonder that Singapore is susceptible to the outbreak. With over 20 cases of local transmissions, Singapore has gone into DORSCON Code Orange, which means that the disease is severe and spreads easily, although it is not yet widespread in the country. After the announcement, Singaporeans scrambled to buy groceries, causing items to fly off supermarket shelves overnight, while pharmacies island-wide are already sold out of surgical masks and hand sanitizers.
Routine temperature taking has also begun at offices, and some have even allowed employees to work from home as an extra safety precaution. Large scale assemblies have been discouraged, and as one of the toughest measures, Singapore has banned travellers with travel history to China in the last 14 days.
With the coronavirus outbreak, Malaysia saw its tourism industry suffering major losses, with close to 96,000 booking cancellations received by the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH). This has caused almost RM40 million in losses as of 9 February 2020, with the drop in numbers of Chinese tourists as the main reason. The Malaysian government has since announced plans for a stimulus package to manage the economic impact of the coronavirus.
On social media, misinformation abounds as rumours and fear spread. The Malaysian Ministry of Health even have to step in on Twitter to address rumours. Most notably and humorously, it states that “It is not true that the virus will make people behave like ZOMBIES.”
As of now, Thailand has not yet employed any drastic measures to combat the virus, although they have encouraged citizens to maintain proper hygiene and to avoid large crowds. With over 30 cases in Thailand, authorities have still classified this as under control, and are launching an “aggressive search” to find people in contact with the confirmed cases.
However, since the outbreak, Thailand has not yet imposed any travel bans and are only screening travelers from China, on top of requiring a health certificate from those coming from China.
4. South Korea
Of all the Asian countries, South Korea was one of the first countries to have confirmed coronavirus cases, and they have also been one of the swiftest to act, after the harsh lesson that was the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2015. Within days of the first case, signages about how to prevent the spread of the disease were put up all over Seoul, and the government has imposed penalties on hoarding behaviours. For those who hoard surgical masks and hand sanitizer to resell at inflated prices, there will be a penalty of up to 2 years in prison or a fine of 50 million won.
There has also been a travel ban on visitors who had been in Wuhan in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and tourist spots that have been reliant on Chinese tourists are now more empty.
5. Hong Kong
Like Singapore, Hong Kong has been swept up into a frenzy over the coronavirus. With the virus proving to be very easily spread after the experience of a family of 9 getting infected after sharing a hotpot, and a virus cluster being found in a residential building, Hong Kong officials are stepping up measures. The residential building that housed over 3000 occupants has since been evacuated, with officials still being unsure what the mode of transmission was.
There is also an urgent shortage of surgical masks as citizens buy huge amounts in panic, on top of hoarding tissue paper and instant noodles, much like Singapore.
The anti-government sentiment also continues on, with thousands of hospital workers going on strike to protest the government not closing Hong Kong borders to mainland Chinese. Instead, they have only imposed a two-week quarantine for travellers from China.