Singapore’s approach to dealing with the COVID-19 virus was once hailed as the ‘gold standard’ by many countries, even the World Health Organisation (WHO) praised Singapore for “leaving no stone unturned” in tracing every COVID-19 cases.
But now Singapore sees a huge jump in cases following a wave of infections that emerged among its massive migrant workers’ population, which contributed almost 80% to the total number of 11,178 infected cases at the time of writing.
The country is facing the one question that began surfacing in many media reports from worldwide, “why didn’t the Singapore Government address the issue of the migrant workers’ living conditions sooner?”
The BBC News report on 22 April quoted, “Once hailed as the gold standard approach in fighting the virus, Singapore’s reputation now tarnished because of the infections spreading among the workers.”
Although Singapore has now sealed off multiple dormitories and is carrying out extensive testing with the migrant workers, BBC News said that questions are being raised about why the Government did not do more to protect them in the early stage.
The BBC News approached one of the migrant workers in Singapore who refused to be identified in the report, he noted that the migrant workers are living in fear as they are unsure of whether they are infected with the virus.
According to the migrant worker, one of his roommates and two other workers from the next room were tested positive for the virus.
“We’re all staying together and no one is doing anything about it. We’re all at risk,” he said.
When he was asked about the early measures that the Government could have taken before the infections emerged in the dormitories, he replied, “They should have isolated us, it is necessary and they could have done it sooner.”
Despite the increasing number of cases in the dormitories, the migrant worker expressed his gratitude as the number of fatalities for the COVID-19 disease in Singapore remains low. However, critics noted that the problem could have been avoided if the Government had acted sooner, according to the BBC News report.
The BBC News also interviewed Singapore’s Minister of Manpower, Josephine Teo, about why there was no action being taken from the Government in the early stage.
Ms Teo responded, “There are, in Southeast Asia alone, about 10 million migrant workers, a fraction of them in Singapore. We are not perfect, but we do what we can. Yes, we took some safe distancing measures within the dormitories and if we were to be able to rewind the clock, one could say that these safe distancing measures need to go much further.”
The BBC News further quoted in its report, “The pandemic has brought to the surface the flaws in Singapore society and it was the failure to address this crack that now threatens even their best-laid plans.”
Meanwhile, ABC News Australia reported on 22 April that experts said the surge in cases shows what can happen if the authorities become complacent.
ABC News interviewed Professor Dale Fisher, who is a professor of medicine at the National University of Singapore. He noted that regardless of how well prepared the Government is, they have to try and find the “blind spots” now.
According to the ABC News report, Prof Dale had been into the migrant workers’ dormitories with his colleagues to conduct testings with the workers and treat them. The migrant workers were seen physically distanced from one another as they were being advised on how to contain the virus.
“The community engagement is going to be critical, you need to be able to tell people how to protect themselves,” said Prof Dale.
ABC News also featured Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s televised address on 21 April, where he announced the “circuit breaker” period being extended to 1 June.
“I hope you understand that this short term pain is to stamp out the virus, protect the health and safety of our loved ones and allow us to revive our economy,” Mr Lee said in the video.
Following Mr Lee’s statement, ABC News continued to quote it with “A revival that will be watched for the world over, with many countries working to avoid a similar sudden spike.”