Singapore has been making good progress exiting from the Circuit Breaker that ended in June 2020, but the latest set of restrictions — precipitated by the rising number of locally-transmitted Covid-19 cases — might seem like a step backwards.
In fact, co-chair of the Multi Ministry Taskforce (MTF) Lawrence Wong said during a press conference today (May 4) that this is effectively a “return to Phase 2”.
Lawrence Wong in March 2020: Circuit breakers can be applied from time to time
News about returning to Phase 2 (or even the possibility of returning to a Circuit Breaker) is definitely dismaying, but the idea of Circuit Breakers being implemented intermittently has been around since the start — precisely on March 10, 2020 when Wong first announced the concept of Circuit Breakers:
Wong was talking about utilising a broad range of social distancing measures — staggered commuting and working from home, for instance — and applying them at critical times to curb the spread of cases:
"So getting the measures right, and applying them at the right time, is critical. In that context, it is useful to think of this broad sweep of social distancing measures as something we can apply from time to time, as Circuit Breakers throughout the entire epidemic cycle."
Government not ruling out possibility of another Circuit Breaker
So there's always a possibility that Singapore might return to another Circuit Breaker during the epidemic cycle, if there is a drastic need for it.
Health minister Gan Kim Yong said at the May 4 press conference that while the government has not ruled out the possibility of a Circuit Breaker, he hopes that with the current set of newly announced measures, the country will not get there.
"I think we probably will be able to avoid having to get to a Circuit Breaker situation.
We cannot rule that out.
And that is why we will continue to have to remain vigilant and monitor the situation and adjust our measures as we go along."
Situation today is different from Circuit Breaker in April 2020
However, Wong also reiterated during the press conference that the situation today is different from when the government imposed the Circuit Breaker in April 2020.
"I wouldn’t say that the situation is where we were. This is like where before we entered the Circuit Breaker last year."
There is a "qualitative difference" thanks in part to better testing and contact tracing capabilities today, he said.
According to Wong, Singapore's public health experts also say that the situation today is akin to when Singapore was in the early stages of the pandemic in February 2020.