Why Does Singapore Have a High Share of Covid-19 Cases?

Singapore currently has 75 confirmed cases of Covid-19 as of 16 February 2020, making us the top 3rd country in Asia (behind China and Japan) with confirmed cases of this virus.

For a layman, with our 5.7 million population being much smaller than our Asian neighbours, why does Singapore have a high share of Covid-19 cases?

Singapore’s Covid-19 cases vs the world (The Economist)

A Quora user, Patrick Liew, presented an argument why we have so many cases compared to some other countries, and what we should be focusing on instead.

1. Singapore’s high connectivity and density makes us more vulnerable to diseases from abroad

“Singapore is a globalized and an open trading economy.

It is also one of the most interconnected maritime and aviation hubs as well as one of the favoured locations for meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions (MICE) industry.

Therefore, Singapore attracts a fair number of people, including entrepreneurs, investors and tourists from all over the world, including travellers from China and other travellers who have been to China.

Many Singaporeans are also known to go all over the world for work as well as for other purposes.

As a result, Singapore is vulnerable to being infected by diseases from abroad.

In addition, being a small country with a relatively high density of population, Singapore is also unfortunately more susceptible to faster transmission of the viruses.”

2. Our efficient healthcare system is also effective and efficient at monitoring and tracing Covid-19 cases


“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Singapore has the best healthcare system in Asia.

It was also considered as having “one of the most successful healthcare systems in the world” by global consulting firm Towers Watson.

Singapore’s healthcare system was also recognized as the most efficient in the world by Bloomberg.

It is therefore comparatively more effective and efficient in monitoring health conditions.

And identifying patients and conducting contact tracing to find other cases.

Case in point, Singapore became the third country in the world outside of China to culture the COVID-19 from an infected patient’s clinical sample – within only a week after the first case was confirmed in Singapore.

It is also equipped with some of the most highly sophisticated contact tracing mechanisms and tools to diagnose the COVID-19.

Within a month after the sequence of COVID-19 was made known, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) had developed and produced a diagnostic test kit that can detect the presence of COVID-19 with high accuracy.

Singapore-based Veredus Laboratories has also developed a portable kit that can detect, differentiate and identify the 2019-nCoV as well as the SARS and MERS coronaviruses in a single test within about two hours.

Singapore also continues to develop new tools and solutions to help fight the virus.

It has also offered assistance to China by sending test kits that can conduct 10,000 tests and three polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines to screen people for COVID-19.”

3. Singapore enjoys a high level of trust from its people.

“Singapore enjoys a high level of trust from its people.

It is not only testing more people than many countries, it is also offering incentives for citizens who are ill to come forward to seek medical treatment.

They get free medical treatment if they are down with the COVID-19.

On top of that, under “the Leave of Absence Support Programme (“LOASP”), eligible employers can apply for $100 daily per affected worker for the required duration of paid LOA granted to the worker.

“The LOASP also covers all workers, regardless of nationality. This includes Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and Work Pass holders who have travelled to mainland China on or before 31 January 2020, and who were placed on LOA upon their return to Singapore on or after 31 January 2020.”

Singapore has been extra vigilant and has taken a zero tolerance approach to any breaches of the measures taken to protect the people.

It is not difficult to envisage that Singapore is able to conduct epidemiological investigation and identify COVID-19 cases in a better and faster way than many countries.”

4. Singapore is open, transparent and measured in updating the public about the latest cases.

“Singapore’s approach in communicating to the public is held up as a model by public health experts.

It is open, transparent and measured in updating the public about the latest cases.

In doing so, Singapore is in a better position to take a whole-of-nation approach in fighting the virus.

While Singapore has acted responsibly, a grave concern right now is how are the other countries handling the outbreak because this is not only a challenge of any particular community or country but a global challenge.”

What should we focus on instead?

“How credible and complete is the information provided by the other countries, especially countries that have weaker public health systems and countries that don’t conduct proper checks on travellers going into their countries?

Is it possible that they don’t even have a single case or have only a few cases?

As we battle against the virus, let’s be mindful not to undermine the credibility and authority of our leaders and public institutions.

This is the time for us to close ranks, stand united, and fight a common enemy together.”

Read the full Quora reply here. Main photo from CNA.

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