19 May 2020

What can Singapore learn from other countries on Covid-19?

Does Singapore still have an advantage in the lockdown era?

On 3 April 2020, Singapore became one of the last major economies of the world to enter a lockdown. Singapore's lockdown came 2 weeks to a month too late, after the pattern of case doubling had already been observed in early March. The international media has used the massive outbreak in Singapore's guest worker dormitories to write off Singapore as a role model for the pandemic.

To be fair, Singapore's SARS textbook response is a mitigation model aimed at containing the spread of a virus and eradicating it over time. Once community spread and outbreaks occur, Singapore as much as the rest of the world is in uncharted territory. Singapore's mitigation model will become relevant to the world again after nations emerge from their suppression model lockdowns. As for being 2 weeks to a month late to the global lockdown party, Singapore's leaders can fashion its own lockdown policy and implementation from mistakes and successes from the rest of the world.

05 May 2020

What can Singapore do about its dormitory population?

Are guest workers a hidden and permanent underclass in Singapore?

"S11", a dormitory or worker camp in Singapore
Photographer: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images
The segregation of COVID-19 numbers in Singapore's daily reporting is a misguided attempt to boost domestic morale through window dressing and impression management. Don't panic at these high numbers; guest workers living in dormitories are not part of the community, they're not local, they're not permanent residents! This intrusion of politics into technocratic competency in Singapore's effort to manage the coronavirus pandemic is now affecting key policy. The minister heading the coronavirus task force announced yesterday in parliament that our goal is to end the lockdown when new daily community cases are at low single digits. One can only infer this will be achieved by simultaneously discounting new daily numbers in the ongoing outbreak in the dormitories.

This attempt to handwave away more than 90% of SARS-COv-2 infections in Singapore is not supported by medical science. From an epidemiology standpoint, what's happening in Singapore's guest worker dormitories is a classic community outbreak. Contact tracing has established early on that guest workers living in dormitories were infected through a cluster at Mustafa Centre, a megamall popular with Singaporeans, permanent residents, guest workers, as well as tourists from all over the world.