What a difference a year has made. This time last year, residents here were hunkering down to a bewildering new situation - the circuit breaker - as the number of locally transmitted Covid-19 cases spiked. Most had to work or take school lessons from home, and eating out, a favourite pastime, was no longer an option - indeed, they could not leave their homes except for essentials such as to buy food and groceries. Today, while life is not fully back to normal, malls and foodcourts are buzzing again, students attend classes in person, more employees are returning to workplaces, and family and friends are meeting up although such gatherings remain restricted to eight persons.
This turnaround had much to do with measures put in place to control the spread of infections, and with the public's willingness to do their part to help keep Covid-19 in check. As a survey by this newspaper published yesterday showed, there has been a high level of confidence in the authorities' handling of the pandemic. The majority of people today are more likely to practise safe management measures than a year ago. There were initial missteps that led to the jump in local cases, such as overlooking how quickly the disease could spread in workers' dormitories. And there were those who defied restrictions by breaking their quarantine or by gathering in large groups.
Great strides have been made since, with local transmissions regularly in single digits or zero in any given week. This and an easing of circuit breaker measures have made it tempting to take things easier. There is optimism that vaccinations - being rolled out smoothly here - will lead to herd immunity. There is fatigue from having to conform to safe management measures day in and day out, and a strong yen to travel. But the World Health Organisation continues to warn that the resurgence in many countries is precisely because of an early relaxation of restrictions and lifting of measures. The emergence of new variants has also played a part.
The year has proved costly to the global economy, and Singapore was not unscathed. With borders closed, travel and related industries were severely hit. Businesses shuttered and people lost jobs, although support measures cushioned the impact significantly. Yet there are positives from this year of living abnormally: an acceleration in the adoption of technology; a change in attitudes towards work and workplaces; opportunities to reskill, upgrade and pivot to new and emerging businesses; and a compact among people that underlined how society again came together in the face of another significant challenge. The threat has not receded. Promising as the outlook might seem here today, this is not the time for anyone to let his guard down. A small misstep is all it takes to undo the progress made and set society back to where it was a year ago.