In the last days of March 2003, the frightening new disease known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, seemed to threaten to spread out of any control in the one of the world's most densely-populated cities: Hong Kong. After weeks of effort to control the spread of the illness finally appeared to have made progress, SARS cases suddenly erupted unexpectedly and in large numbers in a large apartment complex--raising questions about how residents, not seemingly exposed to the illness, might have contracted it, and, even more worrisome, whether it might spread far more easily than previously thought. The SARS outbreak at Amoy Gardens became an exercise in crisis management for public health officials in Hong Kong--with their counterparts around the world either observing or actively advising. Should the complex be evacuated? Should it be quarantined? How might residents respond to either approach? What would be the best way to aid residents of Amoy Gardens, at the same time ensuring, as much as possible, that they would not spread SARS further? The health of Hong Kong's millions appeared to hang in the balance.
The case is a vehicle for discussion of the political dimensions of crisis management, as well as discussion of the development of good options in bad situations.