A tale of two city-states : A comparison of the state-led vs civil society-led responses to COVID-19 in Singapore and Hong Kong

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Author(s)

  • Samson Yuen
  • Karen Grépin
  • King-Wa Fu
  • Ka-Chun Yung
  • Ricci P. H. Yue

Related Research Unit(s)

Detail(s)

Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationGlobal Public Health
Online published16 Feb 2021
Publication statusOnline published - 16 Feb 2021

Abstract

The East Asian experience in tackling COVID-19 has been highly praised, but this high-level generalization neglects variation in pandemic response measures adopted across countries as well as the socio-political factors that shaped them. This paper compares the early pandemic response in Singapore and Hong Kong, two Asian city-states of similar sizes, a shared history of SARS, and advanced medical systems. Although both were able to contain the virus, they did so using two very different approaches. Drawing upon data from a cross-national, probability sample Internet survey conducted in May 2020 as well as media and mobility data, we argue that the different approaches were the result of the relative strength of civil society vs. the state at the outset of the outbreak. In protest-ridden Hong Kong, low governmental trust bolstered civil society, which focused on self-mobilization and community mutual-help. In Singapore, a state-led response model that marginalized civil society brought early success but failed to stem an outbreak among its segregated migrant population. Our findings show that an active civil society is pivotal to effective outbreak response and that trust in government may not be as important a factor.

Research Area(s)

  • Comparative politics, Public administration, Global health policy, Pandemic preparedness, East Asia

Citation Format(s)

A tale of two city-states : A comparison of the state-led vs civil society-led responses to COVID-19 in Singapore and Hong Kong. / Yuen, Samson; Cheng, Edmund W.; Or, Nick H. K.; Grépin, Karen; Fu, King-Wa; Yung, Ka-Chun; Yue, Ricci P. H.

In: Global Public Health, 16.02.2021.

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review