Asia Minute: Singapore Tightening Social Distancing Rules

Mar 25, 2020

Singapore is often cited as a location that has been effective in its initial reaction to the coronavirus pandemic. This week the country is taking new steps because of a spike in new cases — largely because of residents returning from overseas.

Singapore’s Health Ministry reported 49 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. Roughly two-thirds were from travelers returning from other countries. That was a slight decrease from the one-day record of 54 set Monday, but the trend has troubled authorities — who have taken quick action.

Not only are all foreigners now barred from entering or even transiting through Singapore, as of tomorrow, the country will limit outside gatherings to ten people, and is closing bars, clubs and theaters.

Up to now, Singapore has avoided stay at home orders and widespread business closures.

Even under the tightened rules, shopping malls and museums can remain open, but with limits on the number of people allowed in at one time. Restaurants can also stay in business, as long as they space their tables at least one meter apart – a little more than three feet.

Singapore closely tracks its cases of COVID-19 — 558 as of Wednesday morning local time — fewer than Iceland.

17 are in critical condition, two have died, and 155 have recovered.

The country also tracks and transparently posts information about contacts of patients. Nearly 9,000 people have been quarantined simply because they were close contacts of coronavirus patients — 6,000 of them have been released.