The speedy movement from contact classes to remote teaching and learning because of COVID-19 affected many higher education programmes. For professional degrees like teacher education, in which it is important to integrate theory and practice, including in the vital teaching practice sessions, the pandemic presented unique challenges, but also opportunities for innovation and improvement. The differences in the emergence and spread of COVID-19 in South Africa and Hong Kong, as well as the differing programmes and students’ circumstances in each context, required a carefully crafted and unique, yet adaptive set of responses. There was a need to realise professional teacher graduate attributes, while reimagining the role and affordances of traditional teaching practice without students’ physical presence in schools and without the input of mentor teachers. In the process, institutions had to manage the expectations of teacher accreditation authorities and the requirements of the schooling sector. In a comparative case study of pre-service teacher education, the authors analyse and synthesise the similarities, differences, and patterns in their respective institutional responses to the COVID-19 crisis. Lessons are still being learned about difficult decisions, significant compromises, and emergent practices.