The outbreak of the novel coronavirus infection emanating from the wildlife and seafood markets in China’s Wuhan city reminds me of the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, epidemic that hit the world 17 years ago. I lived in Singapore at that time, and it was a traumatic experience.
The SARS virus, like the Wuhan coronavirus, originated in China and spread around the world through air travel. The Singapore economy depends on tourism, trade and business travel, so closing the borders was not an option. When it emerged that the SARS virus transmits through humans, it looked like Singapore would be severely affected. The city-state is densely populated, most people take crowded buses and trains to work, and a lot of places — offices, shopping malls, schools, public buildings — are centrally air-conditioned. We went through weeks and months of anxiety and paranoia.