The Straits Times says

Guard against second wave outbreak

There were always concerns about a new wave of Covid-19 infections as countries reopened their economies in lockdown. Those fears appear to be coming true, although the hope is still that the recurrence will not be as severe as the first round of physical and economic devastation caused by the disease. A shutdown of metropolitan Melbourne has been announced as the Australian state of Victoria recorded its largest daily increase in Covid-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. The border with New South Wales has been closed as well. Tokyo is battling a resurgence and striving to avoid resorting to widespread business shutdowns. The capital of India's Kerala state, which had been praised for its action to curtail the pandemic, has imposed a new lockdown. The country has failed to suppress new cases despite having implemented one of the world's most expansive set of measures at the end of March. The number of confirmed cases in the Philippines is rising again, after curbs were eased more than a month ago. Two Spanish regions have imposed local lockdowns.

This surge raises the question of whether some countries moved too quickly to open up their economies because of political and social pressure, and not on the basis of good science and sound medical advice. Whatever their reasons, the habits of people played an important role as well. Complacent rule-breakers are blamed for having spread the virus in Melbourne. Elsewhere, too, social distancing norms were flouted wildly by people rushing to embrace their new-found freedom after weeks at home, forgetful of the consequences of ignoring precautions that should have become second nature by then.

A second wave globally and the reimposition of curbs will only push countries back to square one. There will be a massive price to pay - on top of the economic and social costs, and consequences wrought by the first wave. That would represent a major setback, given that trade has begun to revive, with travel likely to follow. Any attempt to return to normal - even an abridged form of a new normal - would be thwarted by a new resurgence.

In the circumstances, Singapore would do well to persevere with its carefully calibrated approach to opening up. It is not seeing a second wave of infections yet, but the risk is there always. Some infections are taking place in workplaces, which puts the onus on companies and employers to step up safe management practices. Ensuring that the majority of employees still work from home is a precaution that should become habitual. At workplaces, it is important to split teams and ensure there is no interaction through common social activities. Along with wider precautions at the community level, and continued attention given to foreign workers' dormitories, Singapore can be well placed to avoid a second wave.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2020, with the headline 'Guard against second wave outbreak'. Print Edition | Subscribe