Expert say it is not yet necessary to ban flights from India or tighten social distancing or gathering guidelines, according to a report by The Straits Times (ST) on Thursday (22 April).
This follows as several countries around the world, such as Hong Kong as New Zealand, have imposed stricter measures on incoming travelers from India as the number of daily cases in the country continue to soar, reaching a world-record high of over 300,000 cases a day today.
Both countries have banned flights from India. However, Singapore has not.
On Tuesday, Singapore announced new safety measures including fewer entry approvals for non-permanent residents coming in from India where a second wave is believed to be driven by a variant of the COVID-19 virus with a double mutation.
These new measures include a 7-day isolation at home after the 14-days of serving Stay-Home Notices (SHN) at a dedicated facility upon arrival.
Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, the vice-dean of global health at the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health was quoted as saying, “A 14-day quarantine or SHN would detect more than 98 per cent of Covid-19 cases, including those who were infected while on the plane,” stressing that the 21-day total quarantine combined with specific tests could “detect virtually all cases.”
He added, however, the long period would impose a significant financial and mental cost to the traveller.
The new measures in Singapore also follow reports of people becoming re-infected with the virus, including one person who was re-infected after being vaccinated.
ST’s report included the opinion of Infectious disease expert Leong Hoe Nam who said that while banning flights is easy, it is about achieving balance, noting the need to also support the economy.
Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health echoed similar sentiments, noting that a flight ban is merely short-term relief.
He said, “If such flight bans were successful, we would have seen a much smaller Covid-19 footprint globally, given the number of flight bans and border closures in the early months of 2020.”
“What I suspect … is that these new variants that have emerged in one country are in fact already circulating in other countries.”
As such, he suggested that it is better to prevent the uncontrollable spread of these virus variants via a comprehensive strategy that includes stricter border controls as well as repeated testing.
Touching on the previous policy of a two-week quarantine for inbound travellers not catching 100 percent of cases, he said: “We know from the epidemiological data that there are people whose incubation period actually extends beyond 14 days, just that the chance of this happening is low.”
“Ultimately, these are judgment calls based on data on the incubation period of the virus and the socioeconomic impact of longer Stay-Home Notices,” Prof Hsu said to ST.
Netizens call for full ban of flights from India instead of risking another CB
While experts were quoted as saying that it is not yet necessary to ban flights from India, netizens clearly felt otherwise.
Many on the ST Facebook page were quick to demand that all travellers from India be banned from entering Singapore, noting that it is better to take precautionary and preventive measures to ensure that Singapore is safe instead of waiting for local cases to increase before tightening measures.
Some questioned why experts thing banning flights is not yet necessary, pointing out out how people in Singapore had dutifully adhered to safety measures during the Circuit Breaker (CB) period last year but if cases continue to be imported, it would risk yet another CB.
One netizen pointed out that Singapore should be taking its cue from other countries which have already banned incoming flights from India as a precaution given the worsening situation there.
Many also questioned the expert advice, pointing to the beginning of the pandemic in Singapore when local experts said that it was not necessary for everyone to wear masks before the Government backtracked on its policy.
One persons called for these experts to provide evidence for their analysis and stand since their opinions run contrary to that of other countries.