Light at end of Covid-19 tunnel is still faint and flickering

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Light at end of Covid-19 tunnel is still faint and flickering
© The Independent Singapore

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

And so we are into the stabilisation phase of the “calibrated” Singapore reopening. PM Lee Hsien Loong said the situation should be back to “normal” in three to six months. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung has declared that we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel. But everything seems to hang on the case hikes – the daily, seven-day or more rolling rates – and not a small number of other light-obscuring obstacles.

Let’s look at the statistics again. About 84 per cent of the population have completed the full double-dose vaccination regimen. The booster shot drive (910,000 total stock) is already underway, with priority being given to vulnerable seniors.

In the 28 days preceding 21 Oct, 98.7 per cent of the 80,970 infected individuals had no or mild symptoms, 1.0 per cent required oxygen supplementation, 0.1 per cent went into ICU care and 0.2 per cent died.

In cold statistical terms, we did keep the fatality rate low. The cumulative deaths as a share of population rate are among the world’s lowest, at 47.5 per million. That compares with figures of 2,825.7 in Brazil and 2,202.4 in the United States.

Singapore’s low death rate, particularly during the early months of the pandemic when the virus was raging through the globe, has been cited as an achievement even as we embarked on a fairly successful vaccination drive. Hard to dispute that.

Nevertheless, questions are now being seriously raised about the fits and starts in the road back to normal life.

At the level of disruption to everyday life, it is good that the government has acknowledged the lack of clarity in protocols and finally acted. These have been fine-tuned into two sets of what to do’s – steps to be taken with different shades of exposure to the virus. Essentially, individuals who have been alerted or warned have only to self-test. Only those who test positive are required to take further steps.

Seems straightforward? Not quite yet. More needs to be done quickly to make everything clearer and less befuddling. The simplification of the protocols has yet to be properly communicated down the line. From what I have been told, many healthcare staff workers have not kept up with the changes. For example: A high risk warning does not now require automatic self-isolation. The receiver of such a warning has to do an ART self-test at home. If the test is negative, all he has to do is submit the negative result to MOH. He can then carry on with his normal activities, provided he has a valid negative ART result for that particular day. He just needs to submit a negative test outcome on the seventh (last) day to exit the HRW period.

All this has not been properly transmitted to the ground. It is a significant change which places a high premium on personal responsibility and integrity. In the end, self-care and understanding the protocols would have to be one of the first lines of defence in the healthcare system and in the on-going war against Delta and other variants. Lack of clarity is as much a weak link as people who have no valid reason to refuse vaccination.

We seriously need to get out of the frog’s well of ignorance, apathy and plain stupidity.

More so as I believe Singapore may not be doing all that well compared to other developed countries.

As a news report puts it, although it trails the US figure of 4.96 and Britain’s 1.92, “Singapore’s rolling seven-day average of 1.77 daily deaths per million people outstrips regional peers such as Japan with 0.14, South Korea with 0.28, and Australia with 0.58, the website Our World in Data shows.”

The daily case totals have not eased and were the cause for the latest extension of the Covid-19 measures for another month, subject to a mid-point review.

There is growing pressure on the healthcare system, with significant strain on hospital beds.

We are being labelled high-risk by the US and Germany.

More worrying though overdue, we are only now tip-toeing the migrant workers back into the community. And what about when the Johoreans return en masse?

Hope that the tunnel exit is really only six months away – and that the light does not turn out to be a mirage created by pandemic fatigue or wishful thinking.

Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.Sg, is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a local magazine publishing company.

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