Back in 2020, Singapore was the model country for how to manage COVID-19. Unlike nations that had high case numbers and mortality rates, like the US, Singapore had the lowest mortality rate in the world. It was impressive, leaving frustrated Americans to ask, “Why didn’t we respond as Singapore did?” Fast forward to today, and after a highly successful vaccination campaign, Singapore is battling its largest surge in COVID cases ever. What went wrong?
It’s difficult to compare country-to-country responses to a public health emergency because so much depends on wealth, the underlying age and health of a population, the relationship between a population and its government, and how much freedom a population is willing to sacrifice for a perceived “greater good.”
Unlike medicine, which happens at the individual level, public health interventions happen at the population level, which means they are a lot trickier to implement while keeping people satisfied enough to maintain efficiency. Singapore’s early success is most likely due to a combination of factors: strict lockdowns, or what they call “circuit breakers,” mask mandates, and economic incentives for folks who had to stay ho...
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