The importance of trust and other lessons from the Sars outbreak

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As a new coronavirus spreads within China and to other countries, I'm reminded of my time in Hong Kong during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak of 2003. Back then, I spent an otherwise beautiful spring wearing masks in public, but mostly working from home, as I reported on the disease and the struggle to contain it.

Every day at the same time - 3.20pm, if my memory's correct - I checked an official Hong Kong website, which I trusted completely, to see that day's new cases. I remember my relief as the number finally trended down. When it was over, it felt as though Sars had been just a shot across the world's bow.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2020, with the headline The importance of trust and other lessons from the Sars outbreak. Subscribe