Analysis | Singapore, oh so carefully, drops its masks

Pedestrians cross the street in Singapore’s business district on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. Singapore is today significantly easing the Covid-19 curbs, lifting restrictions on fully vaccinated visitors and enforcing the use of masks from the outside. (Bloomberg)

The most surprising thing about the Margarita I had at 10:35 pm on a Tuesday night was that it was there. It was the first night of the relatively relaxed new Covid regime in Singapore. Strict restrictions on late-night alcohol sales were lifted, masks were no longer needed outside, and social gatherings could accommodate up to 10 people. Singing was no longer prohibited. It was a moment to fry, mind you. Even though the changes were halted before the revolution – the city-state isn’t known for its spontaneous hype – they are still significant. Singapore has ordered face coverage in the open air, but not in many places, and the crime is punishable. For a long time, the authorities even increased the group to five at home. Alcohol was to be eliminated by 10:30 pm, although those who have been quarantined since the end of last year can travel without quarantine, the process is still fraught with bureaucracy. Even this experience was not without controversy: in the early days of Omicron, authorities tried to separate the children from their parents, and some poor positive results on arrival were transferred to a cell with complete strangers.

Singapore now wants to relocate. The government says infections have declined since the beginning of the year. Almost all eligible adults have been vaccinated. Many people have had mild Covid lately, including myself, and the world isn’t over. (Authorities say you can leave the house in just three days after isolation, provided you no longer have a positive test.) The disease has lost its stigma. “In the past, we were wary of the uncertainty surrounding Omicron’s impact,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a speech on March 24, nearly two years after the first round of lockdowns was announced. “We are now ready to take a decisive step towards coexistence with Kovid-19.

Even as Singapore emphasizes eternal vigilance, the pandemic is increasingly felt in yesterday’s history. Tight restrictions on commercial and reputational costs began to override marginal public health benefits by protecting them. Although the numbers are less striking than in 2021, the economic boom is in its second year: the government expects GDP to grow 3% to 5% this year and fall from 7.6% in 2021. It was lame once in the life. The valuable role of the city-state as an aviation hub was at stake as other advanced economies accelerated their reopening. Employers complain about a shortage of workers. The central bank prioritizes the fight against inflation. Monetary policy was tightened in January and economists expect further blows to inflation. It seems to be improving on a daily basis as well. Even though the protection of personnel tracking appears to be fully strengthened, it is still imperative to check the government contact tracking app. Over the weekend, I saw attendees sleeping at their desks in a popular shopping mall, oblivious to the movement around them. As the months went by, fewer and fewer people walking in the park near my house in the morning had their faces covered. From another practical point of view, Singapore’s transition seems more gradual than radical. Most of the pedestrians in the Orchard Road cult shopping center wore masks on Wednesday afternoon. Only a few people did not wear masks for lunch on the outskirts of Serangun Gardens, near the center of the country. It is very inconvenient to remember when to remove or remove them, as the caps are still needed inside. In this sense, the new steps taken by the government are risk-free. You’ll get positive holiday headlines, but most of the population stick to old habits by inertia.

There was no set time for parties in bars and restaurants on Tuesday evenings, the hidden dignity of changing the midweek rules. Everything was livelier on Saturday night. At Appetite restaurant and bar on Amoy Street, at 10:30 pm a waiter appeared for customers with extra champagne, owner chef Ivan Brem turned up the volume on David Bowie’s 1970 hit “Changes”. They stole glasses with people around, hoping the last two years wouldn’t happen again. Leaders have warned that there will be no British-style “Freedom Day” in Singapore, the time of the big bang where change suddenly threatens to cause a major epidemic. If new and more dangerous Kovid mutations develop, it is possible that everything will come back with new vaccines.

Singapore doesn’t make it to the finish line, it’s like walking faster. I will drink as long as the direction is clear.

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Source: Washington Post

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