SARS: A Crisis Analysis Case Study
- Lan XueLan XuePublic Policy and Management, Tsinghua University
- and Kaibin ZhongKaibin ZhongNational Institute of Emergency Management, Chinese Academy of Governance
The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) crisis was the first epidemic caused by a novel virus in the 21st century, killing nearly 774 globally and 349 in China. Started in late 2002, it escalated from a localized outbreak into a national and ultimately an international crisis within just a few months, before the outbreak was finally brought under control in June 2003. The governmental actors were caught off guard before a timely and comprehensive response was put in place in mid-April 2003.
As pandemics are becoming both more frequent and more devastating, it is important that efforts be made to intervene early in an outbreak to prevent a potential national and even global threat. The provincial and national governments did not take prompt and comprehensive actions, even after the disease began spreading quickly and taking lives. The Chinese government dramatically revamped their approach to SARS and took very decisive action to respond to the spread of the SARS virus in April 2003; this occurred only when decision makers had been informed of this crisis situation and put on notice to put crisis management on their radar screen and make it a “top priority.” Therefore, it’s necessary to understand what factors influenced the initial delayed response by local and national Chinese governments, from the perspective of information management and governmental political agenda.