I suppose my blog is starting to turn into a monthly COVID-19 update series. My March post was about early prevention and mitigation efforts in Singapore. My April post was about increasingly strict measures and preparation for the “circuit breaker” (which started 7 April). Today, I wanted to provide an update on the situation in Singapore through our first four weeks in lockdown, which has unfortunately been extended to 1 June.
I feel incredibly fortunate to be healthy, have a job and financial security, live in a spacious apartment (with strong WiFi and good air conditioning) and be in a country where the crisis is managed well and taken seriously. Singapore has been in the news many times through the course of the crisis – in February for having the second highest number of cases outside of China, in March for quickly responding and managing the spread, and recently in April for seeing a late spike in new cases. Before you get too worried about me, I thought I’d try to give a little context behind these latest headlines (obvious disclaimer that I am not a medical professional).
Of Singapore’s population of six million, about one million are migrant workers (for example, from India or Bangladesh and working in construction, shipping or manufacturing). Migrant workers typically live in dormitories, amplifying the spread of the virus in these close quarters. Singapore has seen a substantial spike in cases, with a one day peak of 1,400 new cases. Almost 90% of these new cases are in the migrant worker population.
However, one thing to keep in mind is how advanced Singapore in the area of contact tracing. When someone is admitted to a hospital with the virus, there is a team of people who trace their contacts over the past 14 days in order to test, isolate and prevent further spread. When you live in a dormitory with 20 other people, that means lots of testing. As aggregate numbers, Singapore has done more testing than the USA (and more than double the UK). The other thing to point out is that testing is highly targeted – you’re likely to get tested if you have been in contact with someone with the virus, even if you have no symptoms yourself – something that few other countries have the ability to do.
To date, Singapore has had just 15 fatalities and only 22 people are currently in intensive care. The fatality rate is less than 1 per 100,000 people (Canada is 9, USA is 19, UK is 40). Again, I’m not a medical professional, but these figures seem to suggest that the number of cases should be much higher in other countries. It’s very possible that Singapore is identifying many more mild cases than other countries are. Of course, the situation is still serious and changing rapidly… but I think it’s important to give some context behind the alarming “CASES SPIKE IN SINGAPORE” headlines.
On my end, I’m keeping well and keeping my spirits up! Like the rest of the world, I am getting very familiar with every nook and cranny in my apartment. I am trying to get outside every day and go on walks (with my mandatory face mask on). I am spending lots of time on FaceTime, Zoom and other video tools (it’s been fun to do big family or friend gatherings online). I even bought a Nintendo Switch!
At the beginning of the year, I had set a goal to write 20 blog posts. Unfortunately, I am falling behind that goal as I haven’t been as active over the last few months (only so much I can write about my apartment). I might try to dig into some other Singapore topics over the next month (food, language, etc.) to give myself some quarantine goals. Stay tuned!