Singapore—Experts say that Singapore may be looking at ‘Circuit Breakers’ every three to four months until a Covid-19 vaccine has been developed. This long-term tactic may need to be in place to protect the country’s healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed.
According to the dean of the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, Professor Teo Yik Ying, Singapore is battling the coronavirus pandemic on two fronts, amongst its community as well as in the dormitories of foreign workers.
Professor Teo was speaking in a webinar organised by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP). This webinar is one part of a larger series that takes a look at the public health lessons that can be learned from the pandemic.
Speaking about the stringent circuit breaker measures which caused temporary closures of schools and places of work, Professor Teo said this could cause community transmissions to decrease in the next one to two weeks.
The more immediate concern is the cases in the dormitories of foreign workers, which the Government has addressed by gazetting several isolation facilities. Moreover, medical teams have been placed on the ground to tend to the workers who test positive for Covid-19. The ones who test negative have been moved to other living areas that are less dense.
Professor Teo said in the webinar it is very possible that a circuit breaker will be needed “every three to four months to allow the healthcare system to recuperate.”
Speculation as to when the pandemic will end is difficult, due to a lack of global coordination as well as varying standards of government, he added.
Not all countries in the region have tackled the crisis as Singapore has done. “Other countries in East Asia may not have (Singapore’s) level of resources, social capital and governance structures like the multi-ministry task force.”
The professor further explained this, using China, which is experiencing a second wave of Covid-19 cases, as an example, since different nations have unilaterally decided to re-open their borders. Other countries have experienced this as well, meaning that border restrictions may need to be in place for a longer period of time.
And while different panelists brought up the economic cost of off-and-on circuit breakers, as well as the psychological effect of lockdowns, according to Professor Teo, short-term solutions may not work, as there are those who would try to game the system.
The Professor said, ”The economic driver becomes extremely powerful for people to start coming up with fake certificates.”
All the more reason for clear communication and trust from authorities, he added.
One of the panelists, Associate Professor Joanne Yoong, a senior economist and director of the Center for Economic and Social Research at the University of Southern California, said, “Expressions of empathy are going to be part of the new normal of policy communications. Social compacts which are based on heavy-handed government intervention are no longer sustainable.
It’s not just going to be a marathon, but a series of repeated sprints – we need to have that mentality going forward.” —/TISG
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