'OVERWHELMED': Daunting lesson for Australia as neighbour's reopening fails

·3-min read

Singapore’s decision to reimpose Covid-19 restrictions after reopening the country at 80 per cent vaccinated could foreshadow complications with Australia’s roadmap to freedom.

Singapore announced it was going to “live with Covid” in mid-August upon hitting the vaccine target and reopened bars, gyms and restaurants.

However, on the weekend it was reported the Aussie neighbour has seen a record high in daily virus cases and was reimposing somer restrictions, such as at-home learning for students and limiting gatherings to two people.

Gan Kim Yong, trade minister and co-chair of the government's coronavirus taskforce, said it had been a "very difficult decision" to tighten curbs again but said "it will allow us to slow down the speed of increase [in infections] and avoid overtaxing our healthcare workers."

Office workers spend their lunch breaks at the central business district during the coronavirus disease outbreak in Singapore, September 8, 2021. Source: REUTERS via AAP
Singapore's health ministry registered 2,236 new infections on Tuesday. Source: REUTERS via AAP

Singapore's health ministry registered 2,236 new infections on Tuesday and five related deaths that took September's pandemic fatalities to 30, the most in a month.

It is predicted daily cases could soar to more than 3,000 by next week.

There are currently 90,000 total active cases. The country had until last month avoided the spread of the Delta variant.

The country’s backflip and soaring number of cases is closely being watched by Australia, with NSW and Victoria also planning to reopen at 80 per cent fully vaccinated.

How NSW and Victoria can learn from Singapore's backflip

Australian Professor Dale Fisher, an infectious diseases expert based in Singapore who also chairs the WHO’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, has warned his home country of the perils still come.

"We went from 100 to a 1000 in a very short space of time and that messaging wasn’t I guess uniformly received," Mr Fisher told the Sydney Morning Herald.

A graph showing the increase in Covid cases in Singapore. Search: Our World in Numbers
There are currently 90,000 total active cases in Singapore. Search: Our World in Numbers

"Suddenly the hospitals were overwhelmed with people that didn’t need to be there for health reasons."

Mr Fisher said Australia could learn from Singapore’s backflip.

"If there is a lesson for NSW and Victoria, [it is] could this be a problem for you as numbers continue to increase as you ease restrictions?" he told the publication.

"Do you need these extra facilities? If there are suddenly a number of nursing home people [infected], do you have a facility or do you have capacity to look after them? If people aren’t that sick but need to be kept away from the home while they’re contagious ... do you need these facilities? If so, do them now because your numbers are going to go up."

Diners keep their social distance at a cafe during the coronavirus disease outbreak in Singapore September 7, 2021. Source: REUTERS via AAP
Diners keep their social distance at a cafe during the coronavirus disease outbreak in Singapore September 7, 2021. Source: REUTERS via AAP

NSW recorded 863 new locally-acquired Covid cases on Tuesday, with seven deaths, one of which was an unvaccinated man in his 40s from Dubbo.

Port Macquarie on the Mid North Coast and Muswellbrook local council in the Upper Hunter entered a snap lockdown at midnight.

Victoria recorded 867 new locally acquired cases and four deaths on Tuesday, as well as the additional 149 infections that has not been recorded in previous Tallies because of a software error.

A part of Victoria's Gippsland region was also plunged into a seven-day lockdown after a further four COVID-19 cases emerged.

With AAP

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