Singapore — More countries all over the world are under strict lockdown to cut the chain of transmission and prevent the spread of Covid-19.
As there is an increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Singapore, most of which are imported, some people here are also calling for a lockdown. They even appealed for this to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on his Facebook page on Saturday (March 21).
However, a lockdown is not necessary in Singapore, according to Dr Dale Fisher, the Chair, Infection Control, National University Hospital, in an article for TheConversation.com, one of Australia’s largest independent news and commentary sites. This is because, he says, the country had made diligent preparations for such an outbreak.
Although the article was published on March 18 when the country had 266 confirmed cases and no Covid-19 deaths, it has been widely reproduced and quoted, for example, in The Print, an Indian website.
Singapore in fact started getting ready for an outbreak of disease after Sars in 2003, putting into place the required laws and building isolation and negative pressure rooms in hospitals.
The country started preparations in earnest for this coronavirus at the end of December last year, and thus, when the outbreak was pronounced a public health emergency by the end of January, Singapore was ready, according to Dr Fisher.
He added that one important thing Singapore did was to keep the confirmed cases in hospital rather than at home, even those that were only mild cases.
“In Singapore, we think it’s better to hive those people off and look after them elsewhere until the virus is clear. People with mild cases are kept in hospitals – we have enough space to put all the positives together.”
He also cites diligent testing and contact tracing for people under investigation for the coronavirus, mass testing and strict quarantine rules that the Government was making sure were being followed.
Dr Fisher also said that there was clear and consistent communication from the authorities, as well as transparency from the Government.
And since “children are asymptomatic or only have mild disease”, schools were kept open as well.
Dr Fisher added: “In Singapore, we want life to go on as normal. We want businesses, churches, restaurants and schools to stay open. This is what success looks like. Everything goes forward with modifications as needed, and you keep doing this until there’s a vaccine or a treatment.”
As for whether Singapore did anything extraordinary, he wrote: “It’s nothing really fancy. We don’t have the magic answer here, we just do it well and efficiently.”
Dr Fisher said that it may be easier for Singapore as a small country and added that, for bigger countries, it is important to be organised and to have coordinated messaging.
“It’s really about leadership being organised enough to get the messaging right as a team. Then people will feel more comfortable and are much more likely to follow the rules.” /TISG