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Though SARS patients and others quarantined were most affected, daily life—even for healthy people—changed drastically during the SARS crisis in China and other Asian countries. For children in Singapore and China, it meant that school was canceled until the threat of infection had passed. For parents of very young children, it meant babysitting services, daycares, and preschools were closed, too. That presented a problem for people who had no older children or other family members to watch their young children while they went to work. In Singapore alone, more than six hundred thousand young children were affected by the closing of child care services.

There were daily bulletins on radio and television that gave the totals of new infections and numbers of deaths for the day. In these bulletins parents were strongly urged not to take their children to public places such as the zoo, playgrounds, or shopping malls. One woman says that it was especially hard on children who were celebrating birthdays during this time. Parties had to be canceled. It was probably for the best, she says, since no one felt like celebrating.

Lest anyone forget—even for a moment—that there was a dangerous disease in the area, there were constant reminders everywhere one looked. "Security officers stationed at the driveway of our apartment building were stopping everyone," one woman says, "even cabdrivers, to take their temperatures."46

In Singapore, every business person was stopped before entering a downtown building and, before using the elevator, had to fill out a health evaluation form. People were afraid of buses and trains because of the threat of touching a contaminated door or seat. Instead of relying on public transportation as is usual in most Asian cities, people opted to ride their bicycles—a decision that created massive traffic jams.


Children in Hong Kong wear masks to protect against SARS. These masks were in high demand in China as people took precautions to avoid contracting the disease.

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