Commentary

The fight to live with Covid-19 continues, pause or no pause

Families are meeting and eating out less.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Dining-in and social gatherings will again be restricted to two vaccinated persons, not five. Work from home will be back to being the default mode.

These are just some of the "new" restrictions starting on Monday (Sept 27) that were announced on Friday, after Singapore recorded new daily highs in fresh Covid-19 cases for much of the past week.

The authorities decided to take the measures because they want to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

As the record case numbers look like they may double in a week's time and continue shooting upwards, the fear is that more vulnerable, elderly people will be infected. So, more people will become seriously ill and more will die from Covid-19.

The new restrictions are a setback, as so many of us have been vaccinated and waiting for rules to be relaxed. Experts have said the Delta variant is so highly transmissible that there is no holding it back. They have also said that there is no herd immunity.

Once a lockdown or set of restrictions ends, the cases will likely rise again.

It is not going anywhere, at least not yet. It will spread further, which means that it will mutate. It will disrupt our lives. It will take more lives. And there is a risk that new variants may evade current vaccines in the future.

We do not know if or when the coronavirus will disappear or fizzle out.

What we know is that continuous rounds of restrictions affect many businesses and people, which the Government acknowledged by giving affected businesses a $650 million support package, comprising Jobs Support Scheme subsidies, rental relief and payouts for taxi and private-hire car drivers.

They also exact a psychological toll on people, some more than others, and typically the underprivileged more than the privileged ones.

Children are having more screen time and less play, people are going on fewer dates and adults may be postponing plans to start a family, which may impact Singapore's already low resident fertility rate of 1.1.

Families are meeting and eating out less. Migrant workers are mostly stuck in their dormitories. Many foreigners here have to contend with more years of not seeing their families in person.

We are in as good a situation as it can be now. More than 80 per cent of Singapore is fully vaccinated. The vast majority of those who are vaccinated do not become seriously ill with Covid-19.

While Singapore needs to continue encouraging the medically eligible to get vaccinated, it cannot wait around, as nudges will have no effect on some people.

And even as the people here grow increasingly pandemic-weary, the fight carries on.


Children are having more screen time and less play. PHOTO: ST FILE

In the transition to living with an endemic Covid-19, washing our hands, wearing our masks, practising social distancing in mask-off situations, need to be kept up.

Keep a distance of at least 1m, if not more, because you want to keep yourself and the other person safe, and not because the rules say so. Open the windows or doors of enclosed spaces to let in more fresh air on a regular basis, to reduce the chances of someone breathing in the coronavirus. Having more outdoor seats at some eateries, if that's possible, may be a good idea too.

Last but not least, what about not letting your mask slip beneath your nose when you are in the lift, on the bus or train?

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, a private-sector infectious diseases expert, said doctors and nurses are tired, and they, too, can fall sick with Covid-19.

The one month of restrictions here should provide healthcare workers a much-needed breather, after which it is time to move on.

"We will have to accept that everyone will be exposed or infected with Covid-19. There's no escaping it," he said.

"And the severity of our own illness will be decided by one's own actions, whether you choose to get the vaccines or boosters."

As Duke-NUS Medical School's Professor Ooi Eng Eong has said, the Delta variant is too fit a virus to stop spreading, so it is about getting vaccinated to ensure the spread does as little harm to society as possible.

In fact, the best way to defend against any new variants is for the vaccinated to get an asymptomatic infection, as they would develop a natural immunity to the Covid-19 virus that is stronger than that conferred by vaccines, he argued.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus is likely to continue to surprise us.

However, even as case numbers balloon further, the shock will lessen if the majority are asymptomatic cases or mild cases that can recover at home.

People will have to accept this new norm, as they take care of themselves, much like the way they do with flu.

This will lessen the pressure on the healthcare system.

At some point, almost everyone may eventually get Covid-19 and the number of Covid-19 deaths may rise, but life must go on.