Forum: Time to look at suggestions that can normalise our lives now

The Government's conviction in wanting to open up the country, as we transition towards co-existing with an endemic Covid-19, is commendable.

Singapore has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. About 98 per cent of those infected have either no or mild symptoms. Seeing that the time to discard the status quo and move towards normalising our lives is now, I have a few suggestions to make.

Do away with quarantine for incoming travellers as long as they are fully vaccinated and test negative in a polymerase chain reaction test on arrival.

Today, home recovery is the default care management model for fully vaccinated Singapore residents who test positive for Covid-19. They are also discharged automatically after 10 days. Given that, why should a traveller who tests negative and is vaccinated with the same vaccines as we are (or at least those recognised by the World Health Organisation) be subject to quarantine, when the larger population with the same characteristics is not?

Perhaps a middle ground could be reached to do away with quarantine for all returning vaccinated Singapore residents at least. This will allow a vital part of our economy to restart and send the right signal internally and internationally about Singapore's evidence-based approach to dealing with an endemic Covid-19.

To augment public confidence in the home recovery model, we can publish testimonials of those who recovered at home and are back to leading normal lives.

Focus on therapeutics, not booster shots, which should be only for seniors aged 60 and above who are susceptible to more severe outcomes from Covid-19.

Instead, if efforts can be focused on treating infected people with medicines and new drugs that reduce distress and severity or even the need for institutionalised care, it will again give the wider population confidence to deal with the disease rather than constantly looking to "avoid'' it.

As counter-intuitive as this next suggestion sounds, it seems to be working in some Scandinavian and European countries: doing away with masks in open-air or outdoor settings.

While masks may still be necessary indoors, there is less need for them outdoors, with better ventilation and more space. Also, the way many go about their daily mask-wearing routines - by putting them on tables and in our pockets - means they just become receptacles for germs that we keep slapping on our faces again and again.

While masks should still be required on public transport and in busy indoor malls, for example, being able to breathe freely outdoors may lead to better physical, mental and social health outcomes.

I appreciate the authorities' relentless efforts to put Singapore on the road to recovery, and believe the high vaccination rate here gives us a chance to move decisively ahead with reason, conviction and clarity.

With every crisis comes opportunities and if we can show the world how to harness these opportunities, our little red dot will once again come out better for it.

Abhishek Bhatia

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