Singapore—Singapore and one of its Southeast Asian neighbours, the Philippines, began easing restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic at the same time at the beginning of June. However, significant differences may be observed in the conditions of the two countries as life goes back to normal.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health reported no community cases on Monday (Jun 1), the day before circuit breaker was lifted, as the country moved on to Phase 1 of post-lockdown life. This is important since officials have long said that low incidence of community transmissions was a benchmark of sorts for the country moving forward.
It is important to note as well that the number of new infections of migrant workers living in dormitories, who make up the vast majority of the country’s 35,292 confirmed coronavirus cases, have also been tapering down. And, as of June 2, only 24 people have died from Covid-19 related causes in Singapore.
While the Philippines has a little over half of Singapore’s total number of confirmed cases (18,638), Singapore only has 2.5 percent of the number of deaths in the Philippines. The Philippines has just under 1,000 fatalities from the coronavirus.
Furthermore, the Philippines’ daily toll of new infections remains high, with its highest 24-hour count of 1,046 new cases recorded on May 30, just two days before quarantine restrictions began to be lifted.
There are few, if any signs, of the infection curve being flattened in the Philippines. Experts are saying that there may actually be more infections than the daily official total, due to the considerable backlog of testing.
Manila, the capital of the Philippines, was in lockdown from from March 15, one of the longest lockdowns in the world. The eleven-week quarantine was even longer than that of Wuhan, the city in central China where the coronavirus outbreak began, and was three weeks longer than Singapore’s circuit breaker, which started on April 7.
Despite the lengthy lockdown period, observers wonder if any progress has been made with preventing a widespread outbreak. The easing of restrictions in the Philippines is widely seen as a bid to salvage a battered economy more than anything else.
Unlike Singapore, whose economic stimulus has come in four tranches amounting to nearly S$100 billion to tide households and businesses over during this difficult time, some of the poorest Filipino families have not received financial assistance for their daily needs.
Experts say that the Philippines’ widespread poverty has only worsened due to the lockdown. “There are groups, for instance the bus drivers, many of them of course lost a lot of income. Some people cannot continue working, so people definitely are desperate,” VOA News quotes Maria Ela Atienza, political science professor at the University of the Philippines.
Even during the lockdown period, desperate people took to the streets to beg with signs that read, “We may not die of the coronavirus, but we may die of hunger!”
“We don’t know how many people are dying because of the lockdown and their economic suffering. This is really an issue in poor countries, perhaps not so much in richer countries where they have some savings and the government can help them more,” VOA News quotes Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific chief economist at IHS Markit, as saying.
President Rodrigo Duterte, however, reminded Filipinos that the quarantine has not been fully lifted. In a statement he said, “Remember that the…entire nation is still under quarantine. Let’s see what develops ahead.” —/TISG