Singapore's anti-virus measures lessons for Chinese metropolises

By Xie Wenting and Zhao Yusha Source:Global Times Published: 2020/2/19 0:48:40

City state’s measures lessons for Chinese cities

A visitor, wearing a protective facemask amid fears about the spread of the COVID-19, walks along Merlion Park in Singapore on Monday. Photo: AFP

Amid a scramble by Chinese local governments to fight the COVID-19, observers said viral containment measures adopted by Singapore, a city state with the second highest confirmed cases outside of China, such as rapid response mechanisms, government transparency and comprehensive monitoring can be used as reference by Chinese metropolises. 

Singapore's Ministry of Health on Monday announced a new Stay-Home Notice for Singapore residents and long-term pass holders returning to Singapore from the Chinese mainland, asking travelers to remain in their homes at all times during the 14-day leave period. Any violations may face imprisonment and fines, and foreigners will be deported. 

Singapore reported two new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing its total to 77 confirmed cases. 

In laymen eyes, Singapore has been too lax and defeatist in its approach in tackling the coronavirus outbreak, and Chinese netizens' opinions have been rife with such commentary that "Singapore may become the next Wuhan after news reported that the city state's authorities suggested healthy people do not need to wear face masks, and large-scale banquets still continue amid the outbreak."

Lin Jingyang, a doctor in Singapore, told the Global Times that he is "calm" about the epidemic outbreak in Singapore. He only wears masks when he works at the clinic.

Cai Xinying, a Singapore citizen who works in the hotel industry said that people still go out frequently for gatherings and dining. 

Cai attended a friend's wedding ceremony several days ago. But every guest was asked to take their temperature and disinfectants were placed on tables special for red envelopes collection.

Lin said people did feel panicked when the government raised the alert level on February 8 and some rushed to stores to buy masks for storage, and even toilet paper and rice. 

But their anxiety was soon soothed after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made a public speech on the same day, saying that the country was well prepared to face the outbreak and had sufficient food supplies.

Cai noted that an important reason that people are not so panicked is that the transparency of the government is quite high. She said the prime minister's speech addressed residents' top concerns.

Lin said the government has distributed masks to every household in communities and people can check the latest information related to the epidemic through the official website and social media.

Cai said the government also has restricted purchases on surgical masks. Everyone is allowed to buy only 10 surgical masks at most, and only a few number of people wear masks on the street.

According to Cai, the government and media outlets encouraged people to wash hands frequently. It was hard to buy instant hand sanitizer last week. But now the supply has been boosted to meet demand.

Zi Yang, a senior analyst from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told the Global Times that Singapore's experience can serve as a touchstone for other metropolises in the world. Zi listed measures including rapid response mechanisms, government transparency and comprehensive monitoring that can be used as reference. 

He also suggested that China not only work closely with Singapore, but also other ASEAN countries in the battle to contain the virus.

Zhuang Guotu, head of Xiamen University's Southeast Asian Studies Center, noted that the Singaporean government's seemingly "lax measures" in combating the virus is generated by its concern over economic loss. "Large-scale lockdown on people and traffic will dent the city state's economic growth."

Average infection rates in Beijing and Shanghai are much lower than Singapore, but restrictions in the two cities are much stricter than that of Singapore, said Zhuang.

He noted that after the outbreak, many Chinese cities raced against each other to impose unnecessarily strict control over traffic and residential communities, which imposed heavy pressure on local cities' economy and production. 

Instead, he urged cities and provinces outside Hubei, while keeping alert about the viral spread, should slightly loosen their restrictions on delivery, traffic and community control, and resume production to bring business to normality.

Newspaper headline: Singapore up COVID controls


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