Unrealistic for Covid-19 curbs to go on indefinitely, say two-thirds of S'poreans in survey

Respondents of the online survey were most willing to tolerate measures such as mandatory mask wearing. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Close to two-thirds of Singaporeans surveyed believe it is unrealistic for Covid-19 restrictions to go on indefinitely.

They are also least willing to put up with measures that impact their social life, such as limits on the size of household gatherings and dining in food and beverage (F&B) establishments, according to an online survey of 1,000 respondents commissioned by The Straits Times and conducted by market research firm Milieu Insight from Sept 20 to 22.

Top 5 measures that can be tightened

The top five measures which the respondents felt should be tightened or made stricter are:

- Encouraging or enforcing working from home (63 per cent)

- Mandatory mask wearing (60 per cent)

- Social distancing rules (47 per cent)

- Limiting entry to public facilities (libraries, swimming pools, etc) (44 per cent)

- Dining in F&B establishments in groups of no more than five* (43 per cent)

*The survey was conducted before the announcement last Friday to limit dining-in to two persons who are fully vaccinated.

They were most willing to tolerate measures such as mandatory mask wearing (67 per cent), encouraging or enforcing working from home (54 per cent) and SafeEntry check-ins (47 per cent).

But they were less willing to have their social activities curtailed, such as: capping household gatherings at up to two per day with a maximum of five unique daily visitors (54 per cent) and dining in F&B establishments in groups of no more than five (50 per cent).

Most do not want to live with restrictions indefinitely

The majority, or 63 per cent, of respondents felt it would be unrealistic to live with such restrictions indefinitely.

Less than half (45 per cent) said they are willing to live with restrictions for as long as they are needed, and 33 per cent are willing to live with restrictions for up to another year.

Only 10 per cent are willing to do so beyond one to two years. The same proportion said they no longer want to live with any of such restrictions.

NUS sociologist Tan Ern Ser said the findings show that while there is a high degree of trust in the Government, there could be more recent perceptions of mixed signals from the multi-ministry task force (MTF) tackling Covid-19, and rising doubts about healthcare infrastructure capacity.

"I reckon people were comparing the last few days with that of the earlier 'gold standard', well-organised set-up for mass vaccinations," said Prof Tan, adding that Singaporeans may have readied themselves for the country to transit into an endemic phase.

"Also, concerns on the ground about the need for, and possible adverse effects of, a booster shot have added to the confusion and anxiety."

From Oct 4, people aged between 50 and 59 will be invited to take their Covid-19 vaccine booster shots.

They will join those aged 60 and above and residents of aged-care facilities, who started their booster regime from Sept 15.

Professor Dale Fisher, a senior infectious diseases consultant at the National University Hospital, stressed the importance of a controlled exit from the pandemic and a smooth entry into endemicity.

This means Covid-19 will transmit fairly freely and, for the vast majority, it will be mild or asymptomatic, he said, adding that it would be "wrong" to create unrealistic expectations and put a timeline to the end of the pandemic.

"Currently, we are asking all residents of Singapore to minimise transmission and utilise the new facilities, including recovery at home."

He said the authorities will still want to minimise spread, so that further restrictions are not needed.

"We need to stay the course and understand the change in strategy as part of our essential evolution through the pandemic."

Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said at a press conference on Sept 24 that the MTF is committed to Singapore's reopening plans and will stay the course to make Singapore a Covid-19-resilient nation.

But the latest round of restrictions is needed to ensure the healthcare system can cope with the ongoing surge in cases, he said, and to allow new healthcare protocols to stabilise.

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