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Post Coronavirus Update, Singapore: A Surge in New Cases (from Edward Mears)
Created by John Eipper on 04/08/20 3:27 AM

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Coronavirus Update, Singapore: A Surge in New Cases (from Edward Mears) (John Eipper, USA, 04/08/20 3:27 am)

Edward Mears writes:

In response to John E's comment on Eugenio Battaglia's post regarding the situation in Singapore, I can report that things here have changed significantly since my last update.

Although Singapore was able to successfully limit the initial wave of infections from China during the early days of the outbreak using the tracing methods and border lockdown discussed in my last WAIS post, there has been a recent surge of new and untraceable cases over the past week or so that has forced the Singapore government to take more drastic action. The government has blamed most of these new cases on travelers from destinations other than China, as well as overseas Singaporeans who have been moving back home.

Up until this recent surge began, Singapore was hovering between 10-20 new cases per day, almost all of which were directly traceable to previously known clusters. Businesses and services were open, and beyond temperature screening, day-to-day life was more or less the same as it was prior to the outbreak. The number of infected began to steadily increase over the past two weeks, however, and we are now seeing between 100-120 new cases per day, most of which appear unconnected to the prior known clusters and cases. This means that there has been more extensive community spread. Now that the ports of entry are almost shut entirely, it is alarming that the cases continue to increase as these can no longer be attributed to recent arrivals.

Last Friday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave a televised address late in the afternoon announcing a new wave of measures to combat the spread. In sum, all non-essential businesses are closed with workers encouraged to work from home, schools have moved to an entirely on-line platform, and Singaporeans are discouraged from going outside except where essential (trips to the supermarket, bank or doctor's office, etc.) The language used by the Prime Minister in his speech on Friday fell short of calling the stay-home recommendation an "order," and there is some wiggle room in the measures that would permit people to move about the city for necessities. Notably, we are still permitted to go out to the park and exercise provided that we continue to observe "social distancing" measures (i.e., no congregating in groups, staying one meter apart from others, etc.) Today was the first full day of this "circuit-breaker" (the government has gone out of its way to refrain from calling this a "lockdown" and declaring DORSCON Red--the highest pandemic emergency declaration level in the country), which is scheduled to last until 4 May though this can presumably be lifted earlier or extended at the government's discretion. As expected in Singapore, there has been little pushback or questioning in the press or by the public on social media / WhatsApp against these measures, in contrast to what we are seeing in Japan. Singaporeans appear to be very respectful of these recommendations from the government and take them seriously (at least in theory, see below).

Looking out my apartment window over Marina Bay, things have been noticeably quieter today as there are fewer cars on the streets, however there were still quite a few people out taking their runs or otherwise milling about the promontory. I am curious how long this "exercise" exemption will last based on the number of people I saw out and about today--it does not seem like everyone is in fact taking this recommendation as seriously as the government would like. A colleague also let me know that East Coast Park, one of the largest parks in the city, was more crowded today with people exercising than it is on a normal weekend. Not everyone who is out is flaunting the recommendation, however. Many are delivery drivers, who have been classified as "essential" under the "circuit-breaker," as restaurants have also stayed open though they are only permitted to offer take-out or delivery. I ordered delivery twice today--once from a Korean restaurant and the other from a Mexican restaurant--and delivery times were on par with what I had come to expect prior to the "circuit-breaker." The work from home experience has otherwise been fairly smooth, as thankfully my firm had been well prepared for this and had introduced a flexible working policy over a year ago. The biggest challenge has been limiting the now readily available distractions (TV, Internet, etc.) and focusing on work as the line between home life and work life has become indefinitely blurred.

JE comments:  Thank you and stay well, Eddie.  I described your March 11th Singapore report (link below) as "light at the end of the tunnel."  Boy did I get that one wrong.  The 11th also happens to be the last day of the pre-coronavirus routine at WAIS HQ.  I taught in an actual classroom with live students--how much I miss that!


Next, a coronavirus report from Mallorca (Timothy Ashby).

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