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They had vaccines and an opening plan. Instead, they have cold feet.



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The country’s experience has become a sober case study for other countries pursuing rediscovery strategies without encountering serious outbreaks of the pandemic. For Singaporeans, who believed that the city-state would reopen when the vaccination level reached a certain level, there was a sense of whips and painful questions about what would need to be opened when vaccines were insufficient.

“In a sense, we have fallen victim to our own success because we have achieved as close as possible to zero COVID infection and very, very low mortality,” said Dr. Paul Tambia, an infectious disease specialist at University Hospital. “So we want to maintain a position at the top of the class and that’s very difficult to do.”

Cautious, some say, is Singapore’s overly cautious approach to restoring contrasts with the U.S. and Europe, where vaccinated people are already gathering for concerts, festivals and other major events. But unlike Singapore, both of these places had to deal with significant outbreaks at the start of the pandemic.

Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s finance minister and chairman of the country’s COVID-19 task force, said the lesson for “naive-naive societies” such as Singapore, New Zealand and Australia must be prepared for big waves of infections “regardless of the vaccine” coverage ».

“Once you open up, there will be more social interaction,” he said. “And given the properties of the highly permeable nature of the Delta option you will have large clusters.”

Vaccines worked to keep most of the population out of the hospital, with 98.4 percent of cases showing mild or no symptoms. Deaths have occurred mainly in the elderly, usually with comorbidities, and account for 0.2 percent of cases in the past 28 days. But shots cannot protect against infection, especially when they face the Delta option, Mr Wong said.

“In Singapore, we believe that at this intermediate stage, one cannot rely only on vaccines,” he said. “And so we’re not planning an approach where we reopen in the style of a big bang, but just proclaim freedom.”

The country intends to review its restrictions on Monday, two weeks after their introduction, and make adjustments depending on the situation in society. For Mr Wong, one vision of how a pandemic could unfold in Singapore and elsewhere would include face masks, travel restrictions and social distancing, possibly until 2024.

He stressed that Singapore is still on the path to living with Kovid, and said he recognizes that any form of crackdown, however petty, will be met with anger and frustration because people are trying to move on. “But we have to adjust based on the realities, based on the situation we are facing,” he said.

Last month, officials tried to set up medical facilities equipped with oxygen tanks, and asked those who had mild symptoms or did not experience them to recover at home. Many Singaporeans have said there is confusion as to what to do and that the government looks ill-prepared.

“When the health care system is overloaded, then we know from experience that doctors are failing and mortality is starting to rise,” Mr Wong said. “So we’re trying very hard to avoid that.”

Some doctors have challenged the government’s claim that the health care system is under tremendous stress. Dr Tambia, who is also chairing the opposition party that recently developed an alternative strategy to fight the pandemic, said hospitals had enough buffer because Singapore had canceled all planned operations.

The problem for Singapore’s leaders, he said, is that they are “essentially making the transition from zero covid to living with the virus”.

For many, repeated changes in restrictions have affected. The number of suicides in 2020 has been the highest since 2012, a trend that some mental health experts attribute to the pandemic. People have urged the government to address the mental health issues caused by the restrictions.

“It’s just economically, socially, emotionally and mentally unstable,” said Devadas Krishnadas, executive director of the consulting company Future-Moves Group in Singapore. Mr Krishnadas said the decision to impose restrictions after achieving such a high level of vaccination had made the country a global emission.

“And importantly, it moves Singapore 180 degrees in the opposite direction from where the rest of the world is moving,” he said. “It brings us to the strategic question of where it will go from Singapore – if we don’t get away from what I call hamster circles opening and closing.”

Angelina Ng, marketing manager, said this year was tougher than last. Before her father died in May, she had to overcome the strict boundaries of hospital visitors, which was emotionally difficult. In July, a government statement on another tightening of social restrictions added to her fatigue.

“I think we’re often so focused on wanting to get good results that we just have a tunnel vision,” she said.

Ms. Ng lives opposite the testing center. Almost daily, she observed a steady stream of people going for tests – a strategy that many health experts say is a waste of resources in such a highly vaccinated country.

“Freedom Day – as our ministers have said – is not a Singaporean style,” said Jeremy Lim, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore and an expert on health policy, referring to the opening of England in the summer. But moving too cautiously over the potential disadvantages of restrictions is a strategy of “poor health,” he said.

The government should not expect the restoration of ideal conditions, “because the world will never become perfect. It is so disappointing that politicians are almost like expecting better circumstances, ”Dr. Lim said.

Sarah Chan, who works in business development, said she had a fleeting taste of what a normal life was like when she came to Italy last month to visit her husband’s family.

Outdoors masks were not required, vaccinated people could gather in groups, and Dr. Chan and her son could talk headlong to music in restaurants. In Singapore, music has been banned in restaurants on the grounds that it could stimulate the spread of the virus.

Dr. Chan said her time in Italy was so emotional that she cried.

“It’s almost normal. You forget what it is, “she said.” I miss it very much. “

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