COVID-19 Incidence and the Timing of Quarantine Measures and Travel Restrictions: A Cross-country Analysis

COVID-19 presents humanity with not just a health crisis but also a governance crisis as leaders around the globe confront the challenges of stemming the spread of the virus. Various governments have responded in various ways to slow the transmission of the virus. Ideally, the leaders of a country should approach the crisis with a two-pronged attack. The first is to flatten the epidemic curve (epi curve), which is simply a graphical representation of the number of cases and date of onset of the illness, and the second is to raise or strengthen the capacity of the health system. 

Flattening the epi curve includes mass testing for COVID-19, which has been done in South Korea, for example. Decreasing the incidence also includes quarantine, isolation, and other social distancing strategies, which have been done by various countries in varying degrees. For example, in China, total lockdown (cordon sanitaire) was implemented in Wuhan, of the Hubei province, while in the Philippines, the entire Luzon, which consists of eight administrative regions, including the national capital region (NCR), was in total lockdown (enhanced community quarantine, or ECQ) since March 16 (World Health Organization [WHO] 2020a). Other parts of the Philippines were under different degrees of quarantine at different periods since the appearance of local transmission.

Raising the health care system capacity of a country may include, but is not limited to, training of health care workers, increasing facilities or hospitals that receive COVID patients, and providing adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

This paper offers a brief epidemiological review of COVID-19 since its first case in China and how the hotspots for this disease evolved and changed over a relatively short period. This paper also aims to provide a short descriptive review of the existing data on COVID-19 in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region and the government response of its ten member countries, so that we can somehow draw lessons and learn from these myriad experiences as we continue to combat the spread of this dangerous pathogen. The findings in this paper are preliminary, and more rigorous analysis is expected to be performed as the data becomes more extensive and available.