Living abroad in times of Corona – Part 2: Na Zhang

Part 2: “How do you fight against covid-19 in Singapore?”

When the Covid-19 situation was very severe in China, Singapore also had the first wave of infections. Many Chinese tourists came to visit Singapore during Chinese New Year. It made Singapore an epidemic severe country. The Singapore government has taken quite strict measures to keep the infections quite low even without a complete lockdown, and people can still enjoy a normal life. At the beginning of March, there were over 100 infections, but on 1 April, Singapore had passed the 1000 infections. And up to date, there are almost 3000 infections. On 13 April, the city state recorded 386 new cases – the largest one-day surge to date, all locally transmitted, zero imported cases, and 94 of the new cases were unlinked to previous cases and the contact tracing is ongoing.

Despite the government’s strict contact-tracing, quarantining and travel restrictions, a second wave of infections from returning Singaporean and long-term visa holders and local transmissions made the cases from 100 to 1000 in one month. In response to the second wave, the government has put all these returning residents from the US and the UK into hotels for quarantine. Government has also introduced stricter social distancing measures, barring the entry of all travelers from March 23, and from 27 March closing all bars and entertainments outlets, limiting gatherings to 10 people. People were urged to stay at home and go out only to get essentials. From 7 April to 4 May, the city state issues the ‘circuit breaker’ rule. Singapore went to a lockdown: all schools and non-essential business will be closed until 4 May. All kinds of gatherings and visits are prohibited.

During the first wave in Singapore, our colleagues in the Brill Singapore office help each other to get some face masks, and we were advised to work from home, and then when the situation got better, we started to rotate working in the office. After the first wave, we all worked in the office, it was good to see the colleagues in the office, however, it did not last long: the second wave came to Singapore. In the first few weeks, we rotated working in the office. Although I need to travel to get to work and I could not see other colleagues there, it was still nice to change environment and you can focus better at the office, without distractions. As at home, my husband also works at home, he is almost the whole day in different meetings, I could not concentrate without my noise cancelling headphones. However, from 1 April, Manpower had issued a new policy that employers must ensure that all employees work from home: 1 April was my last day to work in the office. So, I needed to prepare a good environment to work at home. I moved my laptop, one computer screen and my office chair into the living room. Although I could not work with my two computer screens as I used to do in the study, at least I worked in a quieter place and I could enjoy the view from my window.

Although we need to work from home, our colleagues in Singapore keep in touch via email and WhatsApp group, we share useful information to keep us safe and healthy and communicate our work via email.

Since 7 April, it became quiet outside. You only see a few people walking dogs outside. Even at the beach, there were only a few people. The people follow the social distancing measures. People could not work out in the gym, they went out for running or cycling during the lunch break, although it is extremely hot outside (over 30 degrees).

Enforcement to Curb Spread of Virus in Singapore:

  • Circuit Breaker. From 7 April to 4 May, please stay at home, only go out to get food or go to work for the essential business.
  • On 11 April, the government closed beaches, and some areas of parks and nature reserves, as the safe-distancing rules were not followed strictly.
  • On 12 April, people visiting various markets, convenience stores, pharmacies and shopping malls will have to wear masks, or will be denied entry. The government has distributed reusable masks to everyone.

  • Many newly increased cases are transmitted within the groups of foreign workers. Singapore will set up two floating accommodations to temporarily house healthy foreign workers starting next week, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore said on Saturday. Foreign workers will go through health checks including swab tests before boarding, and the government will arrange for their daily essential needs while a medical facility will be set up nearby on land

Effective measures in Singapore against Covid-19.

  • Tracetogether app: the app can identify people who have been within 2 meters, or up to 5 meters of coronavirus patients for at least 30 minutes, using wireless Bluetooth technology. Its developers say the app is useful when those infected cannot recall whom they had been in close proximity with for an extended duration. For the app to start tracing, the Bluetooth setting on mobile phones has to be turned on. The Singaporean government ensures that the app does not track a user’s location and contacts, and data it collects will only be stored on the phone for 21 days and will not be accessed unless they are identified as a close contact. Over a million people have downloaded the app, according to the Straits Times daily.

  • Besides the app, Singapore also has physical contact tracing teams to track people who have been exposed to confirmed coronavirus cases. When the close contacts are found, immediately have them in quarantine.
  • The city state is strict with the ‘circuit breaker’ measures and the Stay-home notice measures. People who breach the act, they were facing a fine of up to 10,000 SGD or up to 6 months jail. Two Singapore Citizens were charged in court on 7 April 2020 after breaching their Stay-Home Notice (SHN).
  • The confirmed cases who are clinically well but still test positive for COVID-19 are isolated and cared for at community facilities. For the people who need medical care, they will be treated in the hospital.

Figures related to Covid-19 in Singapore

  • Singapore reported 386 new COVID-19 cases on Monday (Apr 13), taking the national total to 2,918.
  • To date, a total of 586 cases have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities.
  • Of the 1,158 confirmed cases who are still in hospital, most are stable or improving. 29 are in critical condition in the intensive care unit. 1,165 cases who are clinically well but still test positive for COVID-19 are isolated and cared for at community facilities.
  • Nine have passed away from complications due to COVID-19 infection.

What the people have done in Singapore to support the health workers and essential business workers

Comments:

  • There are some people who are tested positive of Covid-19, however, it is difficult to find the link and the cause how they got the virus, so we need to stay at home as much as possible and wear a face mask if we need to go out.
  • Although the government has announced that it is safe to download the Tracetogether app and the data would not be misused, there are still a lot of people who are worried about their privacy. I think that we need to have different priorities in this difficult period. If this app can help trace the close contacts of the confirmed cases and treat the sick people timely and isolate the healthy people from getting the virus, why can’t we sacrifice our privacy for this period. I have downloaded the app; my family members and some friends have also downloaded it.
  • In this difficult time, we trust the government and most people think that Singapore has done a quite good job in fighting against Covid-19. At this moment, the best way to fight against the virus is to stay at home as much as possible.