When will Singapore enter Phase 3? From the looks of it, not anytime soon. And definitely not anytime in 2020.
The Straits Times reported on Dec. 7 -- quoting experts -- that all aspects pertaining to keeping Covid-19 in check and at bay appear to be status quo in Singapore.
This means that Phase 3 can wait.
Moreover, the three conditions for entering Phase 3 have not been met.
According to the ST piece, the three conditions are:
- 70 per cent of the population in Singapore uses TraceTogether app or token,
- safe management compliance and
- sufficient testing capabilities.
TraceTogether take-up rate not ideal
The biggest takeaway from the ST piece is the slow distribution of the TraceTogether token, and the aversion that people here exhibit when it comes to downloading the app.
The collection of the TraceTogether token appears to not be the fault of residents, as supply has failed to keep up with demand so far.
But with around 2.9 million people having downloaded the app or collected the token, a figure provided by the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office, the uptake of TraceTogether is 50.8 per cent.
Singapore has a total population of 5.7 million.
The TraceTogether usage target, the multi-ministry task force had said before, must be 70 per cent.
By the end of December 2020, Singapore will move away from SafeEntry.
Checking in with the TraceTogether app or token will be mandatory at public venues, such as restaurants and shopping malls.
Some still not complying with rules
While most people go by the book to expedite the passing of phases, it appears not everyone in the community have been adhering to the safe management rules.
In the event of an outbreak, contact tracing efforts have to be stepped up, which explains the insistence on the population to utilise the TraceTogether token or app.
Testing for Covid-19 proactively and reactively
Detection of Covid-19 in the population also appears to be the name of the game now and moving forward.
Singapore has embarked on proactive testing of Covid-19, such as the pre-school swabbing exercise and picking Tekka Market as a testing site.
As a result, eight local cases have been detected since Nov. 26, as part of community surveillance.
This is to proactively test for cases in the community -- a luxury that Singapore can, and hopefully, continue to afford.
The more common practice, which might have been attributed to a shortage of resources in the initial stages of the pandemic, has been to test reactively only when new cases showed up.
Singapore's testing strategy is multi-faceted now and this has to be maintained.
This involves testing those with acute respiratory infection and close contacts, as well as routine testing of residents in high-risk groups, such as front-line workers and those who live in dormitories.
Singapore's exposure to the rest of the world
Without doubt, there has been good news coming out of Singapore as gone were the days of a large number of cases testing positive for Covid-19.
Currently, there has been zero local Covid-19 cases in the community in Singapore for two weeks in November 2020 -- an all-time low.
It has also been more than five months since Singapore moved into phase two.
So, when will Singapore transition into phase three with more easing of restrictions and larger group gatherings?
The answer, unfortunately, also lies beyond Singapore.
While Singapore can do its utmost to keep Covid-19 out, it will still have to react to the regional and global Covid-19 situation.
If the pandemic flares up elsewhere, Singapore will continue to keep its borders shut.
Not only can this not be helped, Singapore has to learn from Hong Kong and South Korea, where there have been new waves of infections.