Living With Covid-19: Singapore Ministers Plan To Embrace New Normal

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Jun 24, 2021 06:00 PM +05:30 IST
Living With Covid-19: Singapore Ministers Plan To Embrace New NormalKitchener Road, Singapore
  • Covid-19 will be treated like other endemic diseases; Singaporean ministers said that the next several months would be to prepare the country to live with Covid-19 as a recurring and controllable disease.

It has been more than a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) termed Covid-19 as a pandemic, and many experts are still saying that this virus is not going away anytime soon. Even though because of vaccines' availability, there are hopes to put an end to the pandemic, Singapore is now preparing a strategy to live the virus.

The Southeast Asian country will prepare Singaporeans to deal with SARS-CoV-2 on a daily basis, and residents will be free to work, travel and shop without being subjected to quarantines or lockdowns, even if the virus is around. According to the three co-chairmen of the government's multi-ministerial task force on Covid-19 that presented plans for Singapore to adopt a new normal, Covid-19 will be treated like other endemic diseases such as the common flu.

In an article published on 24 June, Singaporean Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong, Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, and Health Minister Ong Ye Kung stated that the government's priority for the next several months would be to prepare Singapore to live with Covid-19 as a recurring and controllable disease. In an opinion piece on The Straits Times, they stated that people are continuously asking about the end of this health crisis. "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. This means Covid-19 will very likely become endemic," the ministers said.

Singapore has taken necessary steps to prepare for the emergence of Covid-19 as an endemic disease and has stepped up its immunisation campaign in the face of a surge in cases. Vaccination appears to have already proven to be beneficial in lowering infection and transmission rates. Even if fully vaccinated people contract the virus, most of them show only moderate or no symptoms. According to the ministers, two-thirds of Singapore's population will receive at least one of the two-jab vaccines by early next month. The ministers also noted that if supplies allow, the government's next goal will be to have at least two-thirds of our population fully vaccinated with two doses by the National Day, which is on 9 August. The authorities are currently working to speed up the vaccination delivery process.

Additionally, it was said that people with Covid-19 will be allowed to recover at home, reducing the strain on the healthcare system. The close friends and family members of these people can purchase test kits from pharmacies and do their own tests. In Singapore, testing will be utilised more for screening those who wish to access office buildings, malls and schools, among other areas, rather than for ring-fencing and quarantining people. The ministers also clarified that in the same manner that the flu is tracked, daily updates on Covid-19 infection numbers will shift to focus on outcomes, such as how many patients become very sick and require critical care.

"We can progressively ease our safe management rules and resume large gatherings as well at major events, like the National Day Parade or New Year Countdown. Businesses will have certainty that their operations will not be disrupted," said the ministers. They also explained that ultimately whether people will be able to live with Covid-19 depends on Singaporeans' acceptance that the disease will eventually turn into endemic and "our collective behaviour".

They believe that the community will be a lot safer if all carry the load together, with workers keeping their colleagues safe by staying at home when sick and bosses not blaming them. Lastly, in the op-ed, the Singapore ministers said: "Science and human ingenuity will eventually prevail over Covid-19. Cohesion and social consciousness will get us there faster. We must all do our part".

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