Why Singapore Lost Control of its Outbreak?

Singapore, the tiny state-city with a population of 5.6 million was once seen as a model for effective COVID-19 response, now has the most reported COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia. The total confirmed cases have exceeded 8000 and officials recorded a new daily record of more than 1,400 additional cases in just one day.

Experts suggest that the reason for Singapore’s failure in containing the spread is largely due to local authorities’ negligence in handling the city’s migrant workers. They underestimated the high-risk spread of the virus through the workers who live in congested dormitories with up to 20 people to a room.

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Officials have recorded that about three-quarters of all cases of Singapore are linked to workers living in congested dormitories. A professor and the co-director of global health at the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, Jeremy Lim has said that the dormitories and management of the migrant workers have been a cognitive blindspot to Singapore’s response to COVID-19.

An estimated 200,000 migrant workers live in 43 dormitories, between 12 – 20 workers live in the same room in Singapore. Lim has also noted that the living situation in dorms is structured to provide social distancing to migrant workers.

Maldives has also been reporting more cases of expatriates living in congested living spaces. On 26h of April Maldives has reported 30 cases of COVID-19 from three vulnerable houses. These 30 individuals are expatriates from Bangladesh and India.

Even though the government has taken measures to prevent an outbreak of virus from expatriates by shifting about 200 expatriates living in congested space to better environments, many expatriates are still living in vulnerable spaces.

More than 100 foreigners have been confirmed for the virus in the Maldives, and most of them are expatriates. If the living standards of expatriates are not improved, Maldives has also a high risk of losing control over the outbreak as Singapore did.

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