Safeguard yourselves against Covid-19, government tells Singaporeans

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

By Ivan Lim
Former AJA President, Contributor to AsiaN   

SINGAPORE: “YOU are on your own, lookout”  That’s the new order of the day as Singapore pushes ahead as one of the first Covidean states to pivot towards living with the Coronavirus.

Since late September, the city-state of 5.45 million has gone through a baptism of fire as daily outbreaks and fatalities hit all-time highs.

The dramatic reversal of fortunes has sparked disquiet among citizens, now compelled to do whatever they can   to safeguard themselves amid a flare-up of a potent, highly transmissible virus. No longer can they just leave it to a paternalistic government to keep Covid-19 at bay with lockdowns.

“TheDelta variant has pushed Singapore to change strategies from ‘‘zero-Covid’’ to “living with Covid-19,” said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the architect of the new strategy.

“Singapore must take a middle route approach without letting things go rip or locking down indefinitely,”he said in an update of the pandemic situation in October.

The South-east Asia trading hub is reopening its  borders steadily and rebooting its crippled economy  after using up a $100 billion stimulus package to shore up businesses  and employment.

At the same time, the authorities have mounted an aggressive vaccination campaign to counter the impact of foreseen spikes in Covid-19 outbreaks and casualties.

To date, up to 85 per cent of the adult population have been fully vaccinated. Calling vaccination a “game-changer,” PM Lee said that Covid-19 infected people need not be paralysed by fear as, with vaccinations, the disease is “treatable”.

To be sure, there are people who decried the high death toll of elderly Covid-19 patients. Another eight more deaths were reported on November 11.

They were elderly people aged between 74 and 100 and had underlying medical conditions, according to MoH.

Thursday’s 2,396 new cases might point to a stabilising point. But yesterday ( Nov 12) Covid cases logged rose to 3,099  and 14 patients died from medical complications. Pandemic deaths have risen to 562. The national tally stands at 233,176.

Amid the Delta variant’s surprises, people like Mr Jeffery Wee, an executive of a freight forwarding company, are not taking chances with the unpredictable killer-bug.

“I have my vaccine jabs and observe the mandatory rules, such as putting on surgical masks and keeping social distancing when I am outdoors,” he said.

“I also check in and out with my contact-tracing apps in my handphone when visiting malls, supermarkets and restaurants.”

Retired journalist David Koh, who is also fully vaccinated, said he makes it a point to buy food home instead of dining out to reduce exposure to the virus in public places.

He also made it a point to go to super markets very early or late at night to avoid crowds.

In anticipating Covid-19 infections to persist like the flu under the new endemic normal, the authorities have introduced a Home Recovery programme for Covid-19 patients whose conditions are deemed not critical.4/…

Such patients, isolated at home, would need to monitor their health conditions, such as temperature, pulse rate and oxygen levels. They can call a telemedicine provider or an ambulance for help if their condition worsens.

Another measure is a Do-It-Yourself Antigen Rapid Test for people identified on their contact-tracing apps as health risks for being close to a person who has tested Covid-19 positive.

Anyone given a health risk warning (HRW) is required to “self-isolate” at home and complete swab tests.So much for the authorities passing some of the responsibility for Covid-19 to citizens.

Doing so also helps the Ministry of Health (MoH) to keep enough beds and intensive units for critical cases as well as for non-Covid-19 patients who need urgent care.

On Oct 31, Sunday at 3.08 pm I received a message from the MoH on my handphone. It was a Health Risk Warning (HRW). The standard statement said I had been identified as a ”close contact’ of a person who tested positive for Covid-19.

It gave  no details as to where and when that took place. I have been going out to eat at hawker centres and coffee-shops, shop at super markets and do my banking at malls. Each time I had to check in on my Trace Together Apps, so I could have come close to a Covid-19 carrier at any place and time.

Regardless, the HRW requires me, under Covid-19 provisions, to follow the drills.Immediately. I opened a box of DIY Antigen Rapid Test. The procedure is simple: First, I did a nasal swab, twirling a cotton padded stick in my nostrils several times.

Next, I place the stick into a buffer bottle containing a liquid, twisting the stick and pressing the cotton bud to ensure the swab is well mixed.

Finally, I squeezed the extraction bottle to put five drops of the swabbed content into the well of the bio-sensor test cartridge. I watched anxiously as the liquid moves along the pink strip in the test cartridge.

A line will appear as an indicator of the presence or absence of protein from the virus. I was relieved to see the line formed below the letter ‘C’ on the cartridge, indicating a negative result.

(A line formed below the “C’ and “T” would indicate a positive result.)

That showed I had not been infected by the novel coronavirus. But first, I had to upload a photo of swab test result, and my identity card, for the MOH’s information. That done, I could go about my normal routine for the next 24 hours.

For the next six days, ending Nov, 6, I dutifully carried out a daily swab test but I did not have to send the results to the ministry.6/…

All my tests proved negative. What a relief it was to find out I am Covid-19 free.

The DIY swab test is part of the MOH’s  home recovery. programme.

If a person who is 60 or older had tested positive for the virus and experience symptoms like fever, cough, or sore throat, he/she would have to go see a doctor for advice on the next steps for home recovery.

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