Wed. Oct 27th, 2021

Newsletter: The road to recovery

Protesters from the US to Australia and across Europe fought against government interference and the suppression of Covid restrictions. But in Singapore, a significant portion of the population is demanding even greater state control.

In the city-state, a petition is spreading to bring back mandatory quarantine for all overseas travelers, despite the Delta variant already being widely distributed, while a quarter of Singaporeans are in favor of returning to restrictions.

The Singapore government announced in June with great optimism that it would change its ‘zero-Covid’ approach and learn to live with the virus instead.

The strategy was a model for other countries looking for a safe way out the pandemic. But as things inevitably rose in August and September, panic arose.

Authorities responded this week by withdrawing freedoms for residents, despite surpassing the most advanced economies to fully vaccinate 82 percent of the population.

With more than 2,000 daily cases, homework has become the norm again while primary school students learn at home again. For the next month, only two restaurants are allowed in restaurants, and households can only welcome two visitors.

The decision highlights how many cities in Asia, most of which avoided the large number of deaths and cases that paralyzed the US and Europe last year, remain concerned reopening their economies a border.

Asian financial centers such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo have struggled to find the right balance between protecting their citizens and reviving their economies.

The drop is illustrated in the latest Global Financial Centers index of September 24, which shows that both Singapore and Hong Kong are down 25 points and Tokyo 30 points. In comparison, New York drops just two points and London three.

Bar graph of the GFCI -top -10 cities showing the ratings of the Asian financial center falls further than its western counterparts

Singapore’s fading economic appeal is also reflected this week in the announcement that the population fell 4.1 percent to 5.45 million, one of the biggest year-on-year declines in the country’s history. The decline was led by a 10.7 percent decline in the non-resident population, which is largely foreign workers and students.

But the strictly controlled Singapore, of which the quasi-authoritarian government largely hinders any protest, has come the furthest among Asian cities to open up.

The decision led to a rare occurrence in the city-state: growing public disagreement over the government’s strategy.

Jeremy Lim, of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at National University, has never in 20 years expressed the academic or medical profession as strongly in their disagreement with the government as on the treatment of asymptomatic cases. of Singapore.

Health workers criticized widespread population tests after the government sent test kits to every household, contributing to nervous residents with little or no symptoms overwhelming hospitals.

According to the Ministry of Health, 98 percent – or 27,843 people – of the 28,375 recorded cases have had mild or no symptoms in the past 28 days.

Bar graph of According to the severity of the condition ('000) showing Covid cases in Singapore over the past 28 days

“Many feel that it does not make sense to examine the asymptomatic,” Lim said. ‘The resulting high numbers are causing a great deal of concern and concern. People are flooding hospitals and GP clinics. This affects the manpower in health care, as staff are quarantined and departments are closed. ”

One doctor who works at a large hospital in the city said he should reassure a vaccinated Singaporean woman in her twenties who tested positive for Covid-19.

“People are really scared of getting sick – many see it as a kind of personal failure,” he said. ‘This particular patient was asymptomatic, but waited for her test result as if it were a cancer diagnosis.

People queue to take Covid-19 antigen-fast tests in Singapore
About 98% of the recorded cases in the last 28 days had no or no symptoms © Edgar Su / Reuters

Nearly a quarter of people in Singapore felt the latest restrictions were too lax, while more than half felt they were, according to market research firm Environment Insight. A quarter feel they are too strict.

“What amazed me was how divided people were. There were many people who were upset about the measures, but equally supported more restrictions, ”says Stephen Tracy, managing director of Environment. ‘However, there is a feeling that the latest rules are not in line with the strategy drawn up by the government.

A petition An appeal to all returning travelers to sit in quarantine for two weeks in designated hotels or government facilities received nearly 3,000 signatures on Thursday. Singapore exempts travelers from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Brunei and Germany from quarantine. Passengers arriving from other countries, such as New Zealand and Australia, can be isolated at home for seven days. According to statistics from the Ministry of Health, imported cases are a fraction of the total cases.

However, some experts believe that Singapore should be applauded for trying what no other country has managed: a controlled exit from the pandemic.

“There is a lower tolerance for the number of deaths and cases that occur in other countries because of the way we have avoided it for most of the pandemic,” said Dale Fisher, a senior consultant at Infectious Diseases at the National University Hospital in Singapore, which also plays a major role in the response of the city’s Covid-19.

Governments need to ‘avoid promising to lift restrictions too much because things can change quickly,’ especially with so many unvaccinated people in large parts of the world, Fisher added. ‘We believe it [approach] is safer. ”

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