How Singapore leapt back up list of best places to be in Covid-19 pandemic

The country jumped 19 spots to No. 18 in Bloomberg's Covid Resilience Ranking in December. PHOTO: ST FILE

(BLOOMBERG) - Singapore jumped 19 spots to No. 18 in Bloomberg's Covid Resilience Ranking in December as it moved past the most harrowing stage of its transition to living with the virus, though Omicron remains a key threat on the horizon.

In the last month of the year, infections and hospitalisations plummeted in the city-state even as social and border restrictions were eased, after a Delta wave that made its way through the highly vaccinated population ebbed.

Daily cases declined to 280 as of Dec 21 after starting the month with 1,324 new infections on Dec 1, according to Ministry of Health data.

The number of people in intensive care dropped to 26 from a peak of 75 on Nov 12, while hospitalisations fell by 72 per cent to 430 over the same period, reducing the load on the healthcare system.

The South-east Asian business hub had to endure a few bruising months to reach this stage, with the death toll rising at a stunning pace for a city that practised zero-tolerance towards Covid-19 for nearly two years.

Several sputtering cycles of easing and intensifying curbs marred its efforts to treat the virus as endemic, generating division and frustration on the ground.

Singapore, a former No. 1 on the ranking in April 2020, now seems to have found an equilibrium of relatively open travel while maintaining conservative measures domestically.

Quarantine-free travel is allowed to 24 destinations, including the US and many parts of Europe and Asia, giving a boost to its trade-reliant economy, but residents cannot gather in bigger groups than five locally and entertainment options remain limited.

With Western economies awash in Omicron, Singapore's travel lanes are presenting a key risk as travellers return from winter holidays.

Officials have suspended new ticket sales between Dec 23 and Jan 20 for quarantine-free travel as it tries to manage a wave of returnees with Omicron.

The city's high vaccination rate - 87 per cent of its total population is inoculated and 34 per cent have received booster shots - puts it in good stead to manage a new surge.

If so, the Asian hub will accomplish an unprecedented feat: treating the virus as a normal facet of life without overwhelming its healthcare system or triggering the waves of death that occurred in many other places.

As of Dec 21, 817 people have died from Covid-19 in the Republic.

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