The Many Contradictions of Covid-19

It’s been almost two years since the world encountered Covid-19, and we have come a long way. In Singapore, we are now one of the most vaccinated population in the world as we attempt to find our way out of this Covid-19 nightmare and reclaim some of the normalcy that we left behind. But for now, in our many conversations with friends and family, we are still confronted with diverse contradictions and opinions. Here are some of them …

  • TO VAX OR NOT TO VAX. While 85% of our population are already vaccinated, there is still a small percentage that choose to not receive any vaccine offered. The reasons range from fear of side effects to opposition to any vaccine mandate from the government. Fortunately, those who chose to remain unvaccinated have been protected in the past by strict public health measures and a robust healthcare system. With measures loosened and as things open up, the virus will inevitably circulate more freely in the community and those unvaccinated individuals will suffer increased risk.
  • TO BOOST OR NOT TO BOOST. We know that for some, taking the vaccine came with side effects. Some had it worse than others. Now they are told that they need to go back for another shot and are not thrilled. Fortunately, Singapore has now authorised Sinovac as part of their national program for those who cannot tolerate mRNA vaccines. And yes, those immunocompromised and aged persons should definitely not skip the booster!
  • LIFE VERSUS LIVELIHOOD. In reality, the choice is not binary – but comes in many shades of grey. Singapore has been more fortunate than many countries having deep pockets to help its people weather the Covid-19 storm much better than most. But we also cannot be in perpetual lock-down nor can we throw caution to the wind. Since we are in uncharted territory, we have to take one step at a time.
  • FACT VERSUS FAKE NEWS. A famous person once said that while you may be entitled to your own opinion, you are not entitled to your own facts. Many of us laugh at the disinformation and fake news that circulate widely in Whatsapp and other social media platforms and we know many of our friends and family who have bought in to them. Some are harmless but those peddling ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine are clearly dangerous. Do your part and not posts or forward news or articles from unknown or questionable sources.
  • GOVERNMENT MANDATES VERSUS PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. For most of the pandemic, the government told us what to do under the threat of penalty if we do not comply. Isolation or Quarantine Orders have the force of law and can land you a hefty fine and even jail time. But we are now moving away from mandates to individual responsibility. Rapid Home Covid-19 tests have made some of that possible. If you test positive and are asymptomatic/mild symptoms, there is no need to report your status anymore but just stay home for 72 hours, test again, and if you test negative after that, you no longer have to isolate. 
  • INFECTION VERSUS ICU STATS. Singapore, in the pursuit of a Covid-Zero policy when vaccines were not widely available, was obsessed with daily infection numbers – and to some degree we still are. As we shift gears to a more endemic strategy, we are pivoting to other indicators such as ICU capacity and death. We need to note that we are approaching almost 99% of all those infected having no or mild symptoms and can manage recovery at home.
  • OPEN OR CLOSE BORDERS. When Covid-19 was raging the rest of the world, Singapore’s tightly closed borders kept the disease away. We were an oasis of calm in a chaotic pandemic world – but that came at a heavy price – mentally and economically. The situation is reversed today with more than 85% vaccinated. Under the new Vaccinated Travel Lane(VTL) which allow travelers from safe countries to enter Singapore without quarantine, there has only been a handful of Covid-19 positives and were caught by our inbound PCR tests.

Beyond the medicine and science of the disease, managing Covid-19 is as much an economic, social and policy issue. But the most important thing is that we take care of one another and leave no one behind. As a country, I am confident that we will get to the other side of Covid-19 stronger and more resilient than ever before.

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