Despite the Singapore government coming up with measures to slow the rate of COVID-19 infections in Singapore, we are seeing a steepening of the infection curve. Let us be realistic about the situation which we are in at the moment. When countries around the world have seen flattening infection curves, Singapore’s curve is doing the exact opposite. What this means is that soon, our medical system may not have the capacity to tend to all patients infected with COVID-19 and if there is a strain on our medical system, patients may not get adequate care and this may result in a higher mortality rate.
At the point of me writing this blog post, Singapore recorded its one-day record infection number of 386 cases. 280 cases are linked to existing clusters with the majority of these linked to dormitories. I am wary of segregating the infection into two sectors, that of the general public and that of dormitories. For one, foreign workers may not be citizens or permanent residents but they are intrinsically part of our unique Singapore identity. There are many who have developed close ties with our community and it is with the aid of these foreign workers that built most of what Singapore is today. Segregating them may alienate them and paint a rosier picture of our infection rate to the rest of Singapore. As we gravitate to mindblowing numbers for our small city-state, there are still instances of people taking safe-distancing measures lightly. As most of Singapore residents are hunkering down at home, we see instances of people playing tennis and eating at food centres. I think these people do not see the severity of the situation. We are at war with an invisible enemy and would you be playing tennis or gallivanting at the food centre is we were at a war with a physical enemy?
Let me paint this picture to everyone out there. The United States which covers a geographical land area of 9,834,000 square kilometres with a population of 328,200,000 has 573,052 confirmed cases. This works out to 17.1 square kilometres for every confirmed case or one case for every 572 people. Singapore which covers a geographical land area of 721.5 square kilometres with a population of 5,639,000 has 2,918 confirmed cases. This works out to 0.247 square kilometres for every confirmed case or one case for every 1,932 people. On the first metric, we beat the U.S. by many country miles and on the second, we are about a third of the U.S. infection rates. In fact, if you were to take a look at China with a population of 1,393,000,000 with 82,160 confirmed infections, that works out to one case for every 16,954 people. Two months ago, people in Singapore were worried if they went to China. Today, our infection rate per capita is more than 8 times that of China.
Singapore was once heralded as a gold standard when it came to dealing with the pandemic. I doubt the same can be said two months down the road. The actual difference between us and perhaps China was that the Chinese genuinely feared for their lives. They understood the severity of the situation and they took their lockdown seriously. Instead, in Singapore, many have the impression that our system of governance will get us through no matter what. It is truly because of over-confidence that has led us to the infection rates which we have seen today. Yes granted that the government could have implemented the current measures much sooner but then they are dealing with something that does not happen very often. In fact, this may be a once in a lifetime pandemic. Some people have remarked that I am too protective of my children. That I should let them fail to let them learn the lessons in life. That I should not let them think that I am there to look out for them. These are the same people who now remark that the Singapore government will settle this and then they proceed to take the outbreak lightly. I truly see the government doing its best but we are facing something really brutal.
Let me reiterate… we are currently losing the war to this pandemic.
It is only with the realisation that perhaps we may lose this war that people may take the current measures seriously. Listen to what the government has to say and follow it. Put aside political affiliations and realise that this is the time to just listen. We are at war with the virus. Your jobs, the economy, our way of life is at stake… oh and one more thing… many lives are also at stake. It just may be yours or someone you may be related to. So please take this seriously.
p.s. I’ve written two other articles about the impact of COVID-19 on the economy which may be of interest to you. They highlight the gravity of the situation which confronts most of the world.