On the day when Singapore leaned towards normalcy from Coronavirus pandemic with its Phase 1 of reopening beginning June 2, social distancing which became a norm in the last three months, took a backseat. People resuming their school, colleges and offices unknowingly took a step back from the new normal of social distancing and began crowding trains, buses and the plazas — an expected scenario.
Considering China, South Korea, India and even the U.S. witnessed a spike in cases after reopening public services, another wave in Singapore is not a wild speculation anymore. The city-state has already seen a second wave and the cases are spiking.
Take the example of China, the origin of COVID-19 cases. After China reopened in Wuhan and other cities, new clusters started emerging with thousands needed to be quarantined. As many as 11 Million residents of Wuhan, where the virus originated, had to be tested as fears of another community transmission grew.
In India, after the lockdown was eased, daily cases hit new heights at over 8,000 daily. In South Korea, authorities were forced to close schools, offices and places of large gatherings as the graph went upwards. Japan, too, has been witnessing another spike in coronavirus cases.
No social distancing
In Singapore, on June 2, when 544 new cases were reported including four new community transmissions, a glance at the Lucky Plaza at around 11 am would give you a scare. A Reddit user posted a photograph of Lucky Plaza where people could be seen standing in long queues with no social distancing being followed. Trains, buses and traffic jams too reverted to pre-pandemic period.
"Dealing with COVID-19 is a marathon, not a sprint. Even after a vaccine is found, everything will not simply go back to the way it was before. Maintain safe distancing, wear masks when outdoors and at work, watch your personal hygiene and wash hands frequently. Avoid crowds and gatherings," Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged citizens in his Facebook post. "If we all do this, then life can go on more or less normally after the circuit breaker. We don't want Covid-19 cases to spike up again, and be forced to tighten up once more."
New measures for migrant workers
On June 2, around 40,000 migrant workers returned to jobs including 12,000 essential workers but the dormitories they were so used to living in are another area of concern. The crowded dorms have been the clusters in recent times. Out of 544 cases reported on June 2, majority of them were migrant workers.
Although authorities in Singapore have already started accommodating them in temporary housing and new dorms, such places already have a bad reputation for easy transmission. To tackle such cases, a new access code feature on the SG Workpass app has been rolled out for workers. This feature will give workplaces and dorms the clarity on who can resume work. A green status will only allow workers to leave the dorm and go back to work.
"We cannot assume that with these measures, there will be no reinfections. The risk of infection remains there. What we, therefore, need to layer on is a rigorous system to test the workers, and that is what we are working on," Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said. "But we still have to be mindful that in spite of all these measures, the risk of reinfections for the workers individually and the risk of clusters forming remains."
US authorities have already begun to ring the bell on possible community transmissions due to the nation-wide protests in the aftermath of Minneapolis man George Floyd's death at the hands of the policeman Derek Chauvin. Minnesota (USA) Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm told the media that people face added risk with the large gatherings as a result of reopening public places.
"This is happening in the context of many people already moving away from social distancing with the partial lifting of mitigation on June 1. With people coming together, health workers have been reminding everyone that we are in the midst of an active epidemic and that we need to continue to take steps to limit the risk of spread," he said. So, the situation remains equally frightening elsewhere.