When it comes to dealing with COVID-19, Singapore seemed to have it under control. They had their first case on January 23rd and within a very short time, had traced the contacts of all of the infected individuals (they can trace up to 4,000 contacts of patients each day), closed borders to potentially infectious people and provided free testing and treatment to their residents. During all this, businesses remained open as many residents continued to live normal lives. All of these actions allowed them to get out in front of the virus. They’ve been reporting low case numbers and death rate for weeks while other areas of the globe have seen rates skyrocket.
Given their success, it has surprised many that in just the past few days, the number of cases in Singapore have doubled to over 8,000. According to the data, most of the new infections are in crowded dormitories where migrant laborers live. It’s not uncommon for there to be 20 people in a single room. Per government officials, most of the cases are mild or asymptomatic and haven’t required critical care. Many public health experts say that the government did an excellent job of preventing the virus from coming in through outside sources, but they failed to recognize the potential threat that posed once it was already in the country among those in the poorer sections that don’t have the best living conditions, which is why the surge of cases is coming from the migrant laborers.
As a result of the spike in cases, the normalcy that was present for many residents is no more. As of April 8th, schools are now closed, residents are required to wear masks if they’re out in public and foreign workers, which is about 180,000 people, are quarantined at home for the next 14 days. Singaporean officials state that one local transmission is controlled schools should be able to reopen with staggered schedules while local manufacturing will be able to resume and goods, services, and people will be allowed to move freely again.