As encouraging as the community spread numbers are, it is still too early to start planning those postcircuit breaker parties. Countries which eased lockdowns believing that the coronavirus was contained are now seeing a resurgence in cases. South Korea has delayed reopening schools by a week and revived shutdowns after a man who went club-hopping spawned a fresh cluster involving bars and clubs in Seoul. Germany's viral reproduction rate - the number of people a confirmed patient infects - has risen past 1.1 after it reopened businesses, meaning the virus is spreading again. Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak in China, reported its first new infections since people returned to work a month ago. These worrying developments come amid a loosening of some of the strictest steps taken in Singapore since last month, when businesses such as cake shops, hairdressing services and traditional Chinese medicine halls were closed to contain the spread of the virus. They were allowed to reopen on Tuesday, subject to measures such as safe distancing and use of the SafeEntry digital check-in system for contact tracing.
The authorities here, like elsewhere, face a delicate balancing act of keeping the economy afloat, while not endangering public health by lifting restrictions too soon. In Britain, even as Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured worried citizens that it was safe to resume work, his party members were calling for a swifter end to the lockdown to limit damage to the British economy. Germany's decision to press ahead with state examinations has sparked concern among students and parents, who believe the risks outweigh the benefits. Schools in France are treading cautiously by making the return to school voluntary and limiting class sizes to 15, while Shanghai Disneyland has imposed strict caps on ticket numbers.
Singapore's circuit breaker, which was extended until June 1, has led to a host of economic and social difficulties. Some are clamouring for restrictions to be lifted quickly, including allowing visits by family members in different households. But while the number of new cases in the local community has come down and the situation in worker dormitories is stabilising, the overall number of cases remains high.
The renewed spike in cases elsewhere is a clear warning that the pandemic still looms. Given this, the easing of measures needs to be carefully phased, starting with essential services. Measures may also have to be periodically reintroduced, should there be a new surge in cases. Singapore is by no means out of the woods - not until cases among migrant workers come down further, community spread is very low or stopped altogether, and global transmission declines. The latest easing of measures, and the prospect of more, does not mean people can throw caution to the wind.