Best strategies against virus: Track, isolate, communicate

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In this March 14, 2020, photo, a security personnel views a thermal screening monitor as visitors enter Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. As the virus outbreak spreads ever further, it's becoming clear that some strategies are more likely to succeed in containing it: pro-active efforts to track down and isolate cases, access to basic, affordable public health and clear, reassuring messaging from leaders. (AP Photo/Ee Ming Toh)

Singapore, a tiny city-state of less than 6 million people, had one of the earliest and biggest clusters of cases of the coronavirus in early February, before it began its rapid, inexorable expansion around the globe.

Within weeks, the country's tally of infections with the highly contagious virus that causes COVID-19 was overtaken by skyrocketing caseloads in South Korea, several European countries and the U.S.

Some strategies are proving more effective than others in containing the pandemic: pro-active efforts to track down and isolate the infected, access to basic, affordable public health care, and clear, reassuring messaging from leaders. East Asia's experience with the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which also originated in China, has likewise helped.

Since testing rates vary widely, it's hard to know for sure. But with the global number of infections surpassing 210,000, Singapore appears to be among the handful of places that tick all those boxes, though recent spikes in new cases show that any lapses can have dire consequences.

Singapore's first case, confirmed on Jan. 23, was a 66-year-old man from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the disease was first detected in December.

By mid-February, the number of recovered patients in the Southeast Asian city-state was outpacing new ones. That changed in early March after 47 cases were tracked to a Feb. 15 dinner gathering. As of late Wednesday, Singapore had 313 confirmed cases and no deaths from the virus.

As new infections increased, the government tightened quarantine controls.

Taiwan, a self-governed island off the coast of mainland China, has confirmed just 100 cases and one death. Most recent cases were residents returning from overseas travel.