As the pandemic is easing in the United States, other parts of the world are not so lucky. This includes much of Asia, where Japan and the Koreas are currently battling resurgences of the virus. This has led to yet another round of lockdowns and quarantines, with residents being sent home yet again to await the arrival of larger shipments of vaccines. Singapore has also seen a spike in new cases, but they are moving toward a different approach to dealing with COVID. Their pandemic task force has proposed that they simply open up the country fully and stop counting new cases every day. Shockingly, CNN has published a report on this proposal describing it in favorable terms and suggesting that it could be “a model for other countries.”
As countries around the Asia-Pacific region tighten restrictions once again to curb potential breakouts of the Delta coronavirus variant, Singapore has laid out a new vision for life to return to normal.
The roadmap, proposed by three members of Singapore’s Covid-19 task force, would scrap lockdowns and mass contact tracing and allow for a return to quarantine-free travel and the resumption of large gatherings. It would even stop counting the daily Covid cases.
The proposal is a radical departure from the so-called “zero transmission” model adopted by several countries and territories — including rival Asian business hub Hong Kong — which have so far proved successful at avoiding large outbreaks.
The secret to what they hope will be their success is Singapore’s high vaccination rates. The city is closing in on having 66% of the population with at least one dose of the vaccine by next week, a remarkable accomplishment under the circumstances. They anticipate having nearly everyone fully vaccinated by the end of the summer. It’s a heavy lift for a population of 5.7 million people, but they seem to be getting it done.
The conclusions of the task force seem like common sense. They’re saying that living with COVID over the long run is possible and with sustained vaccination rates, it can be treated basically the same as the flu or chickenpox. As long as the number of new cases doesn’t rise to the point where their hospitals are overwhelmed, it will remain a manageable situation. The alternative, they point out, would be to keep counting and continue locking down large portions of the city. That’s simply not sustainable. You might stop a few more people from dying, but the city will die instead as businesses close and both tourism and the flow of goods and services go elsewhere.
So why isn’t the United States already doing this? We’re taking the first steps already, with most of the country reopening and most lockdowns already having ended. But we’re still obsessing over the numbers. Governors and mayors are still providing updates on a regular basis and the mainstream media can’t go a single day without talking about the new case numbers and vaccination rates, finding ways to spin both into some form of political controversy. It’s growing tiresome and other countries are talking about similar cases of fatigue. Even Boris Johnson recently said that we’re going to have to learn to live with COVID sooner or later.
America has more than enough vaccines to go around and very soon now we will be vaccinating children of all ages. Before too long, everyone who is willing to be vaccinated will have gotten their shots. The rest will probably catch COVID sooner or later and the vast majority of them will survive and develop their own antibodies. Singapore is making an awful lot of sense right about now. It’s time to put this behind us and get back to the normal business of living.