Asia Minute: Coronavirus: Lessons from Singapore?

Mar 5, 2020

This week, Vice President Mike Pence mentioned Singapore as a place the United States could learn from when it comes to fighting the community spread of efforts of the coronavirus. The Southeast Asian nation has had more than 100 cases, and most of the patients have already recovered.

Numbers are constantly shifting when it comes to the novel coronavirus — or COVID-19.

As of Wednesday, Singapore’s government reported two new cases, bringing the country’s total to 112. More than 70% of those patients have now fully recovered — and so far, no fatalities.

The Ministry of Health does what it calls “contact tracing” — following the movements of infected patients to identify potential clusters and guide quarantine needs — sometimes with the help of police. The approach has led to the quarantine of more than 3,200 people for at least 14 days.

Nearly 90% have completed their quarantines.

Singapore is also painstakingly transparent about the details of its cases and the progress of its investigations. The Ministry of Health says “as medical practitioners are on the lookout for suspect cases, Singapore is likely to see more cases that will need to be investigated.”

The country is also serious about enforcement.

A couple who lied about their travel history has been charged with a crime — another person who broke his quarantine had his residency status revoked. In a statement late last week, the Minister of Law said, “the deliberate breaking of the rules, in the current situation, calls for swift and decisive response.”