Singapore was once lauded as having handled the COVID-19 infections well. Garnering praise from many other countries. The measures rolled out were progressive and swift.
One-time Issue of 4 Masks Per Household
As an initial measure, each household was issued 4 surgical masks. Approximately 54% of households collected the masks. The government has also explicitly mentioned that the masks are to be used only when sick. This has been confirmed in the leaked audio of politician Mr Chan Chun Sing.
This has lead to media in other countries praising Singapore for giving masks to its people for free. However, it seems that the number of masks per person still seems to be of a low number.
Singaporeans have found it hard to obtain masks at the initial stages. The government has insisted that there wasn’t a shortage.
On the other hand, Macao has implemented a purchase quota instead. This has led to a rather well controlled process of distribution.
Singapore was able to ramp up contact tracing, being able to identify clusters for quarantine.
As of publishing date, Singapore has identified almost 15,000 contacts and placed them under Quarantine Orders or Stay Home Orders.
Initially, there was a Leave of Absence measure which allowed affected people some movement. Thereafter, a stricter Stay Home Order was implemented to keep affected people away from the public.
Safe Distancing Measures
Safe Distancing Measures are currently implemented. This has included the closure of entertainment establishments & restrictions to restaurants.
Seats at establishments were marked to ensure distancing.
Work arrangements were also implemented in shifts to ensure business continuity.
The latest measure by the government is to urge businesses to telecommute. Working from home is deemed the best method to prevent the spread of the virus.
Rise In Cases After Measures
Despite travel bans & restrictions being implemented, imported cases continue to increase as people returned to the island nation. This has placed a strain on the medical system. Imported cases make up half of the current case numbers.
Towards the end of March 2020, Singapore saw the rise in local cases, more than imported cases.
New clusters were identified, consisting of a pub, dormitory & old folks home. The current trend seems to point towards more cases.
The alarming trend shows cases at early childhood education schools, supermarkets & SingPost, the national postal service.
Upon closer analysis of the cases, it seems that the cases have continued to go to work despite not feeling well. Singapore is ranked as one of the most expensive countries to live in. Singaporeans are also known to be workaholics, working long hours & taking few vacations throughout the year.
The finance sector has implemented working from home for most of their staff. Other sectors are expected to follow suit, where possible.
It is likely that the trend will continue as lower income people must continue to have a livelihood. They do not have much of a choice but to go to work.
Singapore also has a lot of older workers taking up low wage jobs. They can be working as cleaners, shop assistants & other customer facing jobs which will not be possible for work from home arrangements.
There have also been many comments on social media that workers will choose not to take medical leave as it affects their work appraisals & potential for promotions & raises.
This ingrained culture doesn’t seem easy to change when bread & butter issues are on the table.
Does Singapore’s work culture lead to increase in cases? In a few weeks, we will find out.