The world is now in the grip of an unprecedented crisis, which could have truly disastrous consequences, including a systemic collapse of the global economy . But these dire consequences can be averted, and the world can look forward to full recovery in a matter of months, if we all work together and steer public policies scientifically and confidently. To engineer a recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, and reignite hope, policymakers will need to do two things: first, effectively contain or control the epidemic within their borders; second, let life return to normal when it is safe to do so, and open up borders to all other jurisdictions that have brought the pandemic under control. I disagree with the view that it is too late for the world to contain the coronavirus, now that it is a full-blown pandemic . Let us consider the experiences of Wuhan and Hubei. Wuhan , the capital of Hubei province, was the epicentre of the epidemic, and there is no doubt the virus was spreading in the city like wildfire months ago. At that time, anyone from Hubei and especially Wuhan was considered a likely carrier. Wuhan, with a population of 11 million, has recorded more than 50,000 cases of Covid-19. While Italy’s caseload has topped 69,000, it has a population of 60 million living over a much larger area. In China, after about a month of strict quarantine and social distancing measures – and frequent sanitisation – new Covid-19 cases started declining , first in Hubei province excluding Wuhan, and then in Wuhan city itself. Last week, Hubei and Wuhan reported zero new infections for the first time. Brace yourself for other Wuhans as Covid-19 spreads worldwide This milestone does not mean that the battle against the coronavirus has ended in Hubei or Wuhan. Sporadic local cases may re-emerge. But the Chinese strategy has proved quite effective. Health organisations use the basic reproduction number, R0 (pronounced R-nought), to gauge an outbreak; it denotes the average number of people who will catch a disease from a single infected person. Success in shrinking the epidemic would mean reducing the R0 of Covid-19 to under one, and Wuhan and Hubei seem to be getting there. If no new local infections emerge within 28 days, we can be confident that Wuhan and Hubei are safe. Life can then return to normal . No more social distancing will be necessary, and the province can open up to other safe provinces. In Hong Kong, a recent spate of confirmed cases were mostly imported . Among the local infections, most can be traced. Hong Kong is clearly not out of the woods yet, and the most important thing is to thoroughly contain imported infections. Because home quarantine measures are not fail-safe , dedicated quarantine facilities are needed, and people have to be hired to guard these facilities so no one can break quarantine. Hotels that are barely occupied now can be used for quarantine purposes, and quite a number of hotels have already signalled their willingness to contribute in this way. How kindness is turning the ugly tide of selfishness in Hong Kong Not all of them are suitable venues, but perhaps some can be slightly modified. The mainland used hotels as quarantine centres with considerable success. The vision of life getting back to normal within weeks will be a strong boost to business sentiment, and will complement the government’s relief measures for businesses. Government aid notwithstanding, companies that can’t see themselves returning to normal over the next few months might prefer to close down. In the absence of hope, the government’s efforts to support business will not be able to prevent an avalanche of failures. The vision of normalcy within weeks or months will also be a strong incentive for governments and citizens around the world to take quarantine measures and coronavirus containment efforts seriously. There is no reason we have to wait for the epidemic to disappear altogether before life can return to normal. According to epidemiologists, the incubation period for Covid-19 is between two and 14 days. So, 28 days without local infections should be quite enough for a city to be declared safe. So long as we achieve 28 days without local cases, and effectively contain imported cases by strictly enforcing quarantine in suitable facilities, life should be allowed to return to normal within this city, and the community of safe cities. Ho Lok Sang is a senior research fellow at Pan Sutong Shanghai-HK Economic Policy Research Institute, Lingnan University Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A. Offer valid until 31 March 2020.