Eliminating external threats
The Government did this in a series of 2 big steps. The first was imposing travel restrictions on holders of Chinese passports issued in Hubei. This was then escalated to a restriction of entry or transit for ANY visitors with recent travel history to China. These border controls help to eliminate the number of imported cases.
Temperature and health screenings were also enforced at all land, sea and air checkpoints.
With 68 million people going through Singapore as per last year’s numbers, this is no easy task. Kudos to the good work so far.
Govt score card: 4.5/5
The only way we’ll score this 5 is if we isolate the entire Singapore with no visitors in or out but let’s face it, that’s highly unnecessary or possible.
Detecting and containing within Singapore
The next step in our second line of defence is to make sure we swiftly and efficiently detect those who have been infected and isolate them to prevent further spread.
Singapore has established a good system of contact tracing to make sure all close contacts of confirmed cases are alerted and isolated.
Individuals can either be quarantined at 1) their home should it be deemed fit or 2) housed in Government Quarantine Facilities (GQF). MOH does regular spot checks and non-compliance could result in going to jail. Those on Leave of Absence (LOA) are also expected to remain as isolated from the public as possible.
According to MOH, as of 5 February 2020, 12pm, 295 of the suspect cases have tested negative for 2019-nCoV, and 28 have tested positive. Test results for the remaining 62 cases are pending.
Govt score card: 4/5
The Government has done well so far in keeping the spread contained to those who came from Wuhan directly as well as a handful who had contact with these Wuhan individuals. Their contact tracing has also been quite efficient. Although we have our cases of local transmission, efforts are being put in to stem the spread.
Communication and clean up
The Government sends a daily update to over 300,000 people via their Gov.sg Whatsapp channel. This is then further disseminated to other groups. The daily update provides succinct and accurate information of the day’s new cases, debunks certain falsehoods as well as health advisories. This quick dissemination of information makes the daily update the reference point for the public when it comes to news verification.
Abiding by MOH’s protocols, various establishments that have had suspect cases being transferred from their or their tenant’s premises have also been prompt in notifying customers and other tenants. The circulars lay out the details of the suspected cases and how their transportation to the hospital was facilitated.
Thorough disinfecting of premises is then carried out and even closing down certain sections of shopping malls have happened to prevent any subsequent exposure to the public.
Govt score card: 4.5/5
The Gov.sg updates have established itself as the go-to for information, helping the push back against fake news. The current system of solating and facilitating transportation of suspected cases to hospitals is also quite efficient.
With escalating prices and a shortage of masks in retail stores, the Government stepped in to give out masks to over 1.3 million households. They drew from their own stockpile and set aside 5.2 millions masks, ensuring each household has access to at least 4 masks for use in case anyone is sick.
Strong legislation such as the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) and the Infectious Diseases Act give authorities greater powers. The first to fight falsehoods and the latter to enforce strict adherence to quarantine through “physical means” if necessary.
There have also been calls for the public to take ownership of their health. Health advisories use moral suasion to get people to don a mask and see a doctor when sick and practise good personal hygiene. With the proliferation of social, public education efforts have been disseminated quite widely.
Govt score card: 4/5
The Government was quick and decisive in giving out masks from their stockpile. That said, there is still a shortage felt on the ground.
We think the Government has done a good job so far and we hope their efforts will help contain this virus quickly. While the Government does its part and executes various protocols given the situation, also remember that every citizen plays a part in helping to stem the spread of the virus.