- On Wednesday, Singapore reported a record of 142 new infections in the city-state, many of which have been connected to foreign workers living in compact dormitories.
- The new resurgence in cases has prompted the government to close schools and most workplaces for at least a month.
- The new spike underlines how easily the virus can continue to spread — and even the possibility of a second wave of cases.
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On Wednesday, Singapore reported 142 new cases of COVID-19 — the highest single-day record for the city-state. In the last week, Singapore had two record-breaking numbers of new infections — with 120 new confirmed cases on April 5 and 106 on April 7, according to data collected by Worldometer — after weeks of successfully controlling the outbreak within its borders.
The new cases have been connected to foreign workers living in compact dormitories, the Straits Times reported. The recent resurgence of infections has prompted the government to implement a lockdown, closing down schools and most workplaces for a month.
“We have decided that instead of tightening incrementally over the next few weeks, we should make a decisive move now, to pre-empt escalating infections,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a speech, the New York Times reported.
Singapore was one of several Asian countries whose coronavirus response efforts were hailed as a “gold standard” of how to bring an outbreak under control.
While many other countries have imposed city-wide lockdowns and ordered citizens to stay at home, Singapore relied on surveillance, quarantine, and social distancing to curb the spread of infection. The city-state boldly resisted aggressive lockdown measures to limit disruptions to companies and workers in hopes of softening the inevitable economic blow of the pandemic.
Many countries are navigating a complex balancing act of lifting restrictions to allow its economy to recover from lockdowns while preventing another wave of coronavirus cases. Austria and Denmark are planning to end their coronavirus lockdowns should the number of cases continue to decline.
However, the recent spike of cases in Singapore underscored how easily the virus can spread even with social distancing measures in place — and it may give a glimpse at what the US may be in for if the government lifts the orders too early.
Most US states have enacted some form of stay-at-home orders which have closed non-essential businesses and asked citizens to remain in their residences. However, President Donald Trump has repeatedly emphasized the need for the “country to open again,” as he grew impatient with the negative impact that the country’s restrictions were having on the US economy.
“We have to open our country again. We don’t want to be doing this for months, and months and months,” Trump said at a news briefing on Saturday. The Trump administration has been tracking what it believes to be a “stabilization” in infection rates so that it can roll back some coronavirus restrictions in hopes of re-energizing the stalled economy.
Vice President Mike Pence announced that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering loosening its guidelines for self-isolation.
Under the proposed guideline, people who are exposed to the novel virus could be allowed to return to work if they are asymptomatic, wear a face mask, and monitor their temperature twice a day, a person familiar with the proposal told the Associated Press.
However, as the Trump administration eyes loosening restrictions, some estimates show that the US has yet to hit the peak of its coronavirus outbreak. Some estimate that it could occur in late April or early May.
Experts, including those on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, warned that lifting restrictions too early could result in a “second wave” of COVID-19 cases in the country.
An epidemiologist told Business Insider that countries might need to impose new lockdowns every three months until a vaccine is available. Lifting lockdown measures could lead to a re-emergence of the virus. As residents emerge from their homes, go to work, take their children to school, and go shopping, people could be asymptomatic but still spread the novel virus to others.
On Wednesday, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, cautioned against reading “early signs of hope” and doubled down on maintaining social distancing measures.
“What’s really important is that people don’t turn these early signs of hope into releasing from the 30 days to stop the spread. It’s really critical,” Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said on Wednesday.
“So, if people start going out again and socially interacting, we could see a very acute second wave very early. We are really encouraging every American to continue to follow the guidelines for these 30 days,” she added.
The US quickly outpaced other countries to become a hotspot for the novel virus, with over 423,000 confirmed cases and over 14,300 deaths, according to data collected by John Hopkins. In a news briefing on Saturday, Birx said that projections showed that New Orleans, Detroit, and New York City were likely to hit the peak of their outbreaks this week.
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