Archive for the ‘Covid-19’ Category

Over the years I’ve read about a number of epidemics in various parts of the world – SARs, the various Ebola outbreaks, the Zika virus, Swine fever – I’m sure you all remember reading about them just as I do. I certainly did, but they all seemed fairly academic, and while of course I empathised with the sufferers as much as I could, it all seemed rather remote.

Now we have Covid-19, the official name for what has generally been referred-to as the Coronavirus, and this one has hit home much more with me. That’s because one of the places at risk is Singapore, which is a country and city that I have visited and enjoyed several times, and have come to – yes – love. It’s one of those places where I just feel at home. And now it faces great risk, of at least significant economic and social disruption, and possibly major health risk to its population.

There are many reasons why Singapore is especially vulnerable. It’s a very small country, physically, with a significant population, and the population density is therefore high. The nature of life in Singapore is to be very sociable – eating in restaurants, hawker centres or food courts, going to coffee bars, shopping either in the glitzy malls along Orchard Road or in more local shopping centres, and just generally socialising are all key aspects of life in Singapore. There is a huge amount of international travel, in and out of the country. A significant number of non-Singaporeans with PR (Permanent Resident) status are from nearby nations, especially Malaysia, and frequently travel back and forwards. Then there is tourism. In 2018 almost 15m tourists visited Singapore. That’s not very high for Asia, but it has to be remembered that all of those tourists will be heading to the same places in that tiny country – Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay, and so on. And finally there are the business travellers; Singapore is one of the greatest international business centres in the world. A single sales conference in January, attended by 100 people from all over the world, resulted in 7 new cases of Covid-19 infection among attendees, and of course they passed it on to others. In one well-documented case a British attendee contracted the virus at the meeting and himself passed it on to at least 11 others. The numbers of people infected in Singapore is steadily rising, though not yet at the rate that has been in China, and restrictions on travel to and from Singapore are beginning to be discussed.

I’m confident that Singapore, in common with other affected countries, will beat this infection eventually, and of all the affected countries in Asia I would expect Singapore to do so most quickly – the small size and low number of international gateways can be an advantage here. Indeed it might even be best to accept a medium-sized, temporary hit and quarantine the nation in order to stop continual re-infection from travellers from infected areas. In the meantime, I can only hope that they can stay on top of it. And finally – and selfishly – I ought to report that I am now pleased that I visited Singapore in September last year instead of February/March this year. If I had followed the patter of previous visits, I could well have been there now!


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