In a statement that shocked the world, a representative from the World Health Organization said what everyone didn’t want to hear — that the coronavirus may never go away, categorizing it as of the same nature as viruses and diseases like measles and HIV. Despite there being vaccines for these illnesses, they have not been completely eliminated. And the same may happen with COVID-19.
But before we start to lose hope and think that we’re going to spend the rest of our lives trapped indoors and distant from all our loved ones, it’s important to know that the virus can be controlled. Instead of making it a goal to eliminate the virus once and for all, the best thing that we can do is to learn to adapt to a “new normal.”
A few countries are spearheading efforts to learn to live with COVID-19, with Singapore being the most notable. Since the outbreak began in early 2020, Singapore has had a meager number of deaths. And when the vaccine became available, the country was quick to act, with over 80% of its citizens now fully vaccinated.
The government of Singapore announced that it was implementing a strategy to live with COVID-19 — but not in the way most people think. Instead of implementing strict health protocols, restrictive lockdowns, and closing its doors to the world, this strategy involves focusing on tracking COVID-19 outbreaks, improving healthcare access, and ramping up vaccination rates.
What Singapore’s New Normal Looks Like
Despite an increased count of COVID-19 cases, Singapore is implementing a unique set of strategies to curb COVID-19 cases within its borders as well as offer health and wellness support systems to its citizens. Among its initiatives include:
Intricate Contact Tracing Efforts
Contact-tracing is one of Singapore’s more evident strengths when it comes to limiting the spread of COVID-19. With the use of tracking technologies, such as TraceTogether and SafeEntry, coupled with the speedy response of health authorities, citizens who have been exposed to the virus are immediately put into quarantine to prevent them from infecting others.
Health authorities also provide support to infected citizens and persons under investigation completing their quarantine periods, monitoring progress by means of daily in-person visits, phone calls, or text messages.
Singapore holds rank as one of the countries boasting of high vaccination rates. For a country with 5.7 million people, an 80% inoculation rate is a number to beat. Singapore is making it a necessity for people to get vaccinated, making it hard for unvaccinated individuals to conduct normal day-to-day activities, such as eating in restaurants or entering public places.
Citizens’ Willingness to Follow Basic Health Protocols
Despite strict exclusivity for vaccinated citizens, officials have noted that Singaporeans are generally very willing to comply with and support government efforts to curb the spread of the virus — a major contributor to its high vaccination rate.
Citizens have been diligent in complying with mask mandates, similar to its positive response in 2003 during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Social distancing, hand washing, self-quarantines, mask-wearing, and other basic health protocols have also been actions of great initiative in Singapore. While these may seem like small efforts, the country believes that basic protocols merged with a whole-of-society approach are the keys to living with COVID-19.
Expanding Services to Relieve Pandemic Stress
Singapore is not remiss on the mental and emotional effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, recognizing the existence of COVID-induced stress. The Singaporean government is making efforts to address mental health issues quickly, expanding services such as anxiety hotlines and rent relief, among others.
Singapore: A Role Model
Unlike the strict restrictions that plague us today (i.e., month-long lockdowns, border closures, and work-from-home orders), Singapore is standing out with a unique “new normal” approach, focusing more on COVID-19 tracing, vaccinations, and more importantly, support for its citizens.
Singapore has done and continues to do relatively well in curbing the spread of the virus within its borders, and with a vaccination rate that’s among the highest in the world, Singapore’s strategy is one to learn from.