A Tale of 3 Asian Cities: How is Primary Care Responding to COVID-19 in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Beijing.
Hong Kong, Singapore, and Beijing have some of the highest numbers of international arrivals and densest living spaces globally, yet these cities have reported low numbers of deaths amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak. Primary care has played different roles in each of the health systems in combatting the pandemic. Both Hong Kong and Singapore have a 2-tiered health system with the majority of primary care provided in the private sector. The primary care system in Beijing consists of community health facilities, township health centers, and village clinics. The role of primary care in Hong Kong includes using the public primary care clinics as part of an enhanced surveillance program together with accident and emergency departments, as well as triaging patients with suspected infection to hospitals. Singapore’s response to COVID-19 has included close cooperation between redeveloped polyclinics and private and public health preparedness clinics to provide screening with swab tests for suspected cases in the primary care setting. Beijing’s unique response has consisted of using online platforms for general practitioners to facilitate monitoring among community residents, as well as public health education and a mobilized pharmacy refill program to reduce risk of transmission. Established challenges, however, include shortages of personal protective equipment and the heavy workload for health care staff. Regardless, all 3 cities have demonstrated enhanced preparedness since experiencing the severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic, and the responses of their primary care systems therefore may offer learning points for other countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.