“The bad news is that Covid-19 may never go away. The good news is that it is possible to live normally with it in our midst,” –
Singapore is making an increasingly impressive case for its handling of the covid-19 global pandemic, as the city state looks forward. After bold early measures kept “worst case” scenarios largely out of play, and offered time to focus and learn, Singapore is actively looking to reboot its economy, with travel leading the way.
How? Unlike many countries which pursued eradication, but missed out on vaccination, Singapore’s vaccine drive is humming, and by August the country plans to start treating covid-19 like any other endemic illness, according to senior officials. For a start, it will no longer track daily covid-19 cases, and most restrictions will disappear.
Singapore Looks To Reopen Travel
Three of Singapore’s most prominent officials issued an op-ed to the Straits Times, laying out the future of government policy for the city state, in relation to the global pandemic. For many, it’s a breath of fresh air.
Trade Minister Gan Kim Yong, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung of Singapore co-authored the piece, which lays bare both the present and future of covid-19 in the country and for those hoping to enter once again.
The plan is to make the covid-19 pandemic, endemic, by reopening international travel to trustworthy partners, dropping pursuits of zero covid-19 and no longer reporting daily case counts. The bold plan hinges on the continued success of vaccination. Singapore hopes to have two thirds of its population fully vaccinated by August.
Rather than tracking cases, or requiring isolation for close contacts of positive cases, Singapore will track the overall critical healthcare picture, such as hospitalizations and deaths.
“The evidence is clear: Vaccines are highly effective in reducing the risk of infection as well as transmission. Even if you are infected, vaccines will help prevent severe Covid-19 symptoms.
Israel’s experience shows that the infection rate among vaccinated persons is 30 times less than that of the unvaccinated. The hospitalisation rate for the vaccinated is also lower – by 10 times.”Op-Ed in Straits Times by Singaporean Ministers
The Singaporean ministers believe strongly that over time, continued efforts from the public, increased vaccination and a variety of factors will help to make covid-19 yet another thing you just don’t want to catch, rather than something which dictates global policy on a myriad of issues. The op-ed continued…
In a large country, the number hospitalised from influenza can be huge. For example, in the United States, hundreds of thousands are hospitalised every year because of the flu, and tens of thousands die.
But because the chances of falling very ill from influenza are so low, people live with it. They carry on with their daily activities even during the flu season, taking simple precautions or getting an annual flu jab.
We can work towards a similar outcome for Covid-19. We can’t eradicate it, but we can turn the pandemic into something much less threatening, like influenza, hand, foot and mouth disease, or chickenpox, and get on with our lives.Gan Kim Yong, Lawrence Wong and Ong Ye Kung
Creating Simple Testing And Dropping Quarantine
Singapore seeks to drop quarantine requirements and make testing something as simple – and painless – as breathing. Singapore became the first country to test a new breathalyzer style test for covid-19 which delivers results in under 2 minutes. As you likely guessed, it just requires breathing into a tube.
Once the population is 2/3rds vaccinated, Singapore will actively seek to reboot as much international travel as possible between countries with similar levels of reliable success in vaccination. In the inspired op-ed, the ministers wrote…
Fifth, we will be able to travel again, at least to countries that have also controlled the virus and turned it into an endemic norm.
We will recognise each other’s vaccination certificates. Travellers, especially those vaccinated, can get themselves tested before departure and be exempted from quarantine with a negative test upon arrival.Gan Kim Yong, Lawrence Wong and Ong Ye Kung
GSTP Take: This Is The Way Forward
Singapore, as it does more often than not, has put bureaucracy to the side – and logic to the forefront. Of all the countries tackling the pandemic, this approach seems to be the most balanced and thoughtful in explaining course of strategy.
It provides comfort in understanding – and comfort in hopes of a return to normalcy.
People won’t wonder why reporting has changed, and they’ll be informed of metrics more critical to overall success than overwhelming details. Most importantly, a clear focus on rebooting travel is here.
Travel is not being scapegoated, and the importance of the vital investment, commerce and opportunity that travel brings are being fully recognized. If you’ve been itching to return to Singapore and are in a well vaccinated country, it doesn’t sound like the wait will linger much past August.