Goh Choon Kang, former journalist and member of the Singapore Parliament from 1984 to 1997, in Lianhe Zaobao (April 15, 2020)
Summary by Alan Yang Gregory (Photo credit: huntergol hp / Shutterstock.com)
During the first stage of epidemic, after the first case of Covid-19 was reported on January 23, 2020, Singapore’s approach was seen as the "gold standard”. The second stage started after the epidemic had rapidly spread across the globe, prompting many infected citizens to rush back home. While strict quarantine measures ensured these returnees would be isolated, there were still signs of community spread within nursing homes, preschools, construction sites and offices, while the number of people infected from an unknown source also increased.
After the number of returnees had decreased, the number of imported cases also fell sharply. Community transmissions, however, have now soared, particularly within dormitories housing foreign workers. This has triggered a dangerous stage of the battle – a third "circuit breaker".
How can countries can remain under lockdown for so long, with a vaccination still potentially 18 months away? Singaporeans must dutifully comply with the new circuit-breaker measures and be mentally prepared for a long battle. The question now is: What to do next?
First, Singapore must quickly control the epidemic in the dormitories housing foreign workers. There are as many as 43 such accommodations across the whole island, housing tens of thousands of guest workers. The government has already set up a working group to control this problem.
Second, the government must do everything in its power to halt community infection. As the number of cases where no association can be found is increasing, this stage of the battle is challenging and entails high risks. If we lose, it will be difficult to manage the consequences.
If the epidemic is under control by May 4, we can gradually resume economic activity. This is a deadly battle, and everyone must cooperate. The consequences of failure must be emphasized, and society must remain vigilant.