Anti-epidemic public policies in East Asia amid the covid-19 outbreak

Anti-epidemic public policies in East Asia amid the covid-19 outbreak

3 months after the first reported case of a cluster of infection associated with the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China to World Health Organization, the covid-19 virus epidemic has spread rapidly around the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) has labeled the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. The total number of people infected is more than 370,000 while the death rate is around 3.5%. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far less than 1% of those infected. The relatively high fatality rate of the fast-spreading virus has created panic all over the world including panic buying of food & necessities, social distancing and halting mass gathering like concerts, sport events and conferences etc.  However, the number of confirmed infection is still skyrocketing after reaching different continents, especially America and Europe, causing governments to impose dramatic measures to stop the spread including closure of schools and business as well as lockdowns. Despite the proximity to China, East Asia managed to keep the growth rate low with effective public policies and a high level of awareness about public health among residents. GSEF is trying to collect some distinctive public policies in East Asia to alleviate the impacts from the epidemic that may be applicable to other cities.
(This page will be updated continuously with new public policies)

Common public policies in East Asia:
- Encouraging people to work from home while government set an example to implement the policy for government employees (Hong Kong, Seoul)
- Centralizing the diffusion of information related to covid-19 (Singapore,  Hong Kong, JapanTaiwan)
- Providing loans or financial supports to affected businesses or individuals (See below for more information)

Hong Kong
To enhance Hong Kong’s ongoing work in the fight against the novel coronavirus infection and to provide support and assistance to industries and members of the public affected by the epidemic, the Government will set up a $30 billion Anti-epidemic Fund. The Fund will provide additional resources to strengthen the territorial-wide anti-epidemic work and will render support to the affected industries and employees.
The Financial Secretary announced that the HKMC Insurance Limited (HKMCI) would introduce special 100 per cent Loan Guarantee under the SME Financing Guarantee Scheme (SFGS).  The new measure aims to alleviate the burden of paying employee wages and rents by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which are suffering from reduced income amid the covid-19 outbreak, thereby help minimise enterprise shutting down and layoffs.

Minister without Portfolio Audrey Tang has overseen the development of an online platform with civil societies that contains over 100 digital maps that provide real-time information about the availability of supplies of facemasks across Taiwan. Meanwhile, Taiwan government has implemented an online distribution system to ensure Taiwanese can purchase surgical masks that can help preventing the spread of virus.

With the purpose of relieving the pain of residents who have been negatively affected by the outbreak of COVID-19, Seoul will be implementing the finalized “Seoul Disaster Fund for Household Support.” The action plan was prepared to vitalize the local economy and overcome the national crisis through timely emergency financial support for victims of the COVID-19 pandemic whose livelihoods have become threatened. Eligible beneficiaries are the households whose members include low-income workers, small business owners, or temporary workers (part-timers, freelancers, daily construction workers) who make less than 100% of the median income. According to the number of members in a household, the sum of the financial support will be between KRW 300,000 and 500,000 and distributed in the form of the local mobile currency or a prepaid card.

South Korea has built drive-thru coronavirus screening locations, to help diagnose patients and keep them from infecting others in hospital waiting rooms.
A growing number of local governments in South Korea are launching the roadside testing facilities this week, as demand soars for checks and increasing waiting times raise the risk of infection.
Regarded as one of the effective means to stop the spread of Coronvirus, face masks are in shortage in Asia. The Seoul Institute of Technology (SIT) is holding an open competition for mask filter and alternative mask technologies to respond to a shortage of face masks caused by the nationwide COVID-19 outbreak. Perhaps, it is a right time to change the existing production method and look for an innovation.

In order to avoid panic among residents, the Singaporean government has set up a webpage for clarifications on misinformation regarding covid-19.