The COVID-19 pandemic will not be the last of its kind. As the world charts a way towards an equitable and resilient recovery, Public Health and Social Measures (PHSMs) that were implemented since the beginning of the pandemic need to be made a permanent feature of health systems that can be activated and readily deployed to tackle sudden surges in infections going forward. Although PHSMs aim to blunt the spread of the virus, and in turn protect lives and preserve health system capacity, there are also unintended consequences attributed to them. Importantly, the interactions between PHSMs and their accompanying key indicators that influence the strength and duration of PHSMs are elements that require in-depth exploration. This research employs case studies from six Asian countries, namely Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, to paint a comprehensive picture of PHSMs that protect the lives and livelihoods of populations. Nine typologies of PHSMs that emerged are as follows: (1) physical distancing, (2) border controls, (3) personal protective equipment requirements, (4) transmission monitoring, (5) surge health infrastructure capacity, (6) surge medical supplies, (7) surge human resources, (8) vaccine availability and roll-out and (9) social and economic support measures. The key indicators that influence the strength and duration of PHSMs are as follows: (1) size of community transmission, (2) number of severe cases and mortality, (3) health system capacity, (4) vaccine coverage, (5) fiscal space and (6) technology. Interactions between PHSMs can be synergistic or inhibiting, depending on various contextual factors. Fundamentally, PHSMs do not operate in silos, and a suite of PHSMs that are complementary is required to ensure that lives and livelihoods are safeguarded with an equity lens. For that to be achieved, strong governance structures and community engagement are also required at all levels of the health system.
Source: British Medical Journal