The White Paper on Singapore’s Response to Covid-19: Lessons for the Next Pandemic, released on March 8, is an exercise in honest self-appraisal that attests to the integrity which citizens expect of those who govern them, particularly during a national crisis. The coronavirus pandemic was an existential crisis that covered almost every aspect of national existence, from health to the economy to psychological resilience.
The report, which incorporates the findings of various reviews by ministries and government agencies as well as the perspectives of the private and people sectors, does not gloss over the shortcomings in the Government’s response. It did not act quickly enough to conduct early and better surveillance of migrant worker dormitories, given their communal living conditions, or to detect and isolate infected individuals. And, instead of easing movement restrictions for those workers after most of them had been vaccinated and boosted, the Government displayed an abundance of caution that took a toll on their mental well-being. Then, border measures could have been tightened more aggressively, and the Government could have been less definitive in its position on mask-wearing. Also, some safe management measures were overly calibrated.