Forum: Costs of a hurried reopening could outweigh benefits

A hurried reopening of the country without guardrails to limit rising Covid-19 transmission could result in excessive costs that outweigh the benefits of having an endemic environment in the first place.

A study led by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases found that 10 per cent of recovered Covid-19 patients had protracted ailments six months after first being infected (One in 10 recovered patients carries symptoms 6 months after infection, July 11).

Compound that with a far higher incidence of infection in an uncontrolled endemic scenario, and Singapore might see a swelling of overall expenditures on healthcare and insurance premiums that would continue to put a strain on residents years after the pandemic is over.

An expected rise in cases could also mean more Covid-19 test kits and contact tracing would be necessary, exacerbating the costs incurred.

Rushing the reopening of the country could also negate potential economic and social benefits. After all, there is an imperfect relationship between a relaxation of restrictions and patronage of businesses.

If the populace does not feel safe due to a large number of Covid-19 cases, or is unwilling to bear costs - such as for testing - to take part in activities, footfall at businesses will not recover meaningfully regardless of how permissive the prevailing policies are.

As a nation, we should remain patient and acknowledge that the goal of a sustainable endemic environment is still a work in progress - but will be well worth the wait.

Jerald Ho Jia Hwai

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