What can we learn from COVID response abroad?


World flags

By Brie DeLisi and Propulo team

While countries like China, Italy, and now the US are struggling to contain COVID-19 – there are other countries that immediately sprang into action to avoid transmission of the virus and economic disaster.
Places like Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea all went through virus outbreaks with SARS and H1N1 Swine Flu, and took the lessons learned seriously. They created crisis response systems to ensure that if another virus were to come along, they would be prepared to take action immediately. There was no “we’ll wait and see if this gets to us” response – once they caught wind of the potential spread from China, they acted immediately.

What are governments doing?

In January, Taiwan announced that they were prepared with “44 million surgical masks, 1.9 million N95 masks, and 1,100 negative pressure isolation rooms” - for a country that is 13x smaller than the US. In Singapore, they are monitoring temperatures of people before entering buildings, as increased temperature is typically the first symptom of COVID-19. In these countries, any citizen who is or may be infected, is monitored to ensure he or she is properly quarantined. Hospital teams are segregated to ensure that infection can’t spread between teams, and patients are physically separated. These countries immediately produced and started testing individuals for COVID-19 for free. They implemented strict travel restrictions and monitoring for those who had been out of the country.

What are businesses doing?

Businesses in these areas also took additional measures:
- Appointing a manager to focus specifically on business continuity
- Succession planning for ‘essential’ business roles
- Creating teams that do not overlap and are physically removed from one another to limit potential spread of virus
- Imposing travel restrictions for employees
- Proactive training including cross departmental, hazard-specific scenarios
- Implementing remote work if/where possible

What will be the result of these measures?

“Flattening the curve” which means reducing the transmission and lowering the risk of a spike in cases, which would put a huge strain on the economy as well as available medical resources. By ensuring that proper social distancing measures are in place and implementing continuous monitoring with free testing, less people will get sick. This will result in a lower impact on available resources and increase the likelihood of continuing business with some interruption – and some interruption is better than a complete shutdown.