Less than a week after Malaysia implemented MCO 3.0, Singapore made a move to tighten up its own restrictions amid a rise in Covid cases.
Singapore has reverted to the lockdown-like conditions it last imposed a year ago (during its worst surge of the pandemic), prohibiting dine-in business at restaurants and limiting gatherings to two people, as a rising number of untraceable virus infections threatens to upend the success of Singapore’s Covid-19 containment efforts, which rank among the world’s best.
Following a runaway surge that began in earnest in April 2020, Singapore managed to get a handle on transmission, and contained the spread within a matter of a few months. By October 2020, when some other countries were grappling with a third wave of the outbreak, Singapore was breathing easy, with daily new cases oftentimes coming in below 10.
Now, the count is ominously beginning to tick upward, and though the numbers are still quite low (the last few days have seen daily new cases of 25 to 50), Singapore authorities are taking no chances, and have rolled out the restrictions proactively, hoping to break the chain of transmission before things are able to get out of hand again.
For four weeks from May 16 to June 13, gathering sizes as well as household visitors will be cut to a maximum of two people (down from five), working from home will be the expected norm, and restaurants can only offer takeaways and deliveries, Singapore’s health ministry said in a statement released on Friday, May 14.
“A pattern of local unlinked community cases has emerged and is persisting,” the statement said. “We need to act decisively to contain these risks as any one leak could result in an uncontrolled resurgence of cases.”
The country saw 24 new cases locally on Friday, with more than half coming from a cluster originating from Changi Airport. The number of unlinked infections — the most troubling as these cases signal undetected spread in the community — more than doubled to 15 in the past week (up from just seven in the previous week) the health ministry said on Thursday.
Singapore logged 49 new cases on Sunday, May 16.
The resurgence has also put an eagerly anticipated travel bubble with Hong Kong, a policy that’s already experienced delays since its initial announcement last November, in serious doubt. The travel bubble had been expected to commence on May 26, but authorities in both countries have expressed pessimism that this will go forward as scheduled.
In addition to restrictions on dine-in business and personal gatherings, the following rules are also in place for the next month:
- Fewer people allowed in shopping malls and showrooms.
- A maximum of 100 people allowed at business meetings and live performances with pre-event testing, and up to 50 people without such testing.
- Operating capacity at attractions cut to 25% (down from the earlier permissible capacity of 50%).
- Wedding receptions will not be allowed.
It seems that Singapore, like Malaysia and many other countries throughout the region, is discovering first-hand that the coronavirus is a particularly challenging enemy to vanquish.
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