A. Chong, Governance for global pandemics, East Asia Forum: Economics, Politics and Public Policy in East Asia and the Pacific, 26 March 2020
Much of the public alarm triggered by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is greatly bound up with the management of cross-border security threats. COVID-19 resembles a 21st century medieval plague in terms of how little we understand its character and how vulnerable we are to its effects.
The general idea of observing the socially diseased from a central point is widely known in social science thanks to the work of Jeremy Bentham and Michel Foucault. The ‘panopticon’ is an idea that can be traced back to early modern prison surveillance architecture where prison cells are arrayed around a central towering guard post. This system was meant to instil fear in those prisoners being watched in their cells, while also ensuring that they develop self-vigilance.