Thursday, June 25, 2009

Quarantine and trust in public health authorities

Given the risk of quarantine detention in Singapore and China as a result of swine-flu fears, it is useful to consider the different attitudes towards quarantine across countries. A paper in Health Affairs in 2006 reports on a survey of residents of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and the United States in relation to their attitudes towards compulsory quarantine during a public health emergency. Some interesting cross-country differences emerge, and may help to explain the different trade-offs that countries are currently making between public health and individual liberties. For example, as reported in the table below, trust in public health authorities is significantly higher in Singapore than in the United States, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Isolation and quarantine during a pandemic raise important ethical issues, and need to be taken into account in the process of preparedness planning and policy formation. These issues do not appear to have been widely discussed in Australia.

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