SINGAPORE – The decision to extend Covid-19 restrictions by another month is necessary to prevent hospitals here from being overwhelmed, said those who support the move.
Those who disagree with the extension, however, said Singapore’s high vaccination rate should allow the country to loosen measures.
A Straits Times online poll on the issue garnered about 5,000 responses. Of these, 61.8 per cent felt the extension of curbs was not necessary, with the remaining 38.2 per cent agreeing with the decision by the Covid-19 task force.
Of those who felt the extension was not necessary, six in 10 said that given Singapore’s high vaccination rate, it should open up as planned, even if this meant a surge in cases.
Meanwhile, of those who thought the extension was necessary, more than half said the move would prevent hospitals from being swamped and a rise in the number of avoidable deaths.
On Wednesday (Oct 20), the multi-ministry task force tackling Covid-19 here announced that the latest restrictions – which started on Sept 27 and were originally supposed to last until Oct 24 – would be extended to Nov 21, as the country’s healthcare system is at risk of being overwhelmed.
The extended measures – which include capping group sizes for social gatherings and dining in at two – will be reviewed at the two-week mark and adjusted based on the community situation then.
ST’s straw poll was conducted on its Facebook and Telegram channels from Thursday afternoon through to Friday morning. The poll was not intended as a scientific study and respondents were not representative of Singapore’s population.
Of those who felt the extension was not necessary, 17.5 per cent said that businesses suffer and many jobs are at risk whenever restrictions are prolonged, while 22.2 per cent said they were tired of the repeated tightening and loosening of measures.
There have been at least 10 different announcements on the loosening, tightening and extension of measures relating to group sizes and dining in so far this year.
Of the 38.2 per cent who said the extension of measures was necessary, 52.3 per cent felt that hospitals here are under heavy pressure, and that preventable deaths may rise if they are overwhelmed.
Main reason for extension of Covid-19 curbs
After Wednesday’s announcement, retailers and eateries expressed despair and frustration at the extension.
At the time of the announcement on Wednesday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung had said that 89 per cent of the country’s 1,650 isolation beds and 67 per cent of intensive care unit beds were occupied.
Nine per cent of the respondents who supported the extension of restrictions said that seniors, especially those who are unvaccinated or have ailments, would be put at risk if the restrictions were not extended.
The remaining 38.7 per cent said that daily cases are still very high and Singapore needs to get this number under control before the rules are further relaxed.
Respondents were also asked what they think needs to happen when the extended measures are reviewed in two weeks’ time.
Thirty-nine per cent said there should be a return to phase three measures – where group sizes of up to eight people were allowed – but only if the hospital situation has improved, while 14.5 per cent said there should be a return to these measures regardless of the hospital situation, given the two-week buffer.
Another 30.6 per cent felt that the rules should be relaxed beyond those in phase three, in order to show that Singapore is committed to living with Covid-19.
The remaining 15.9 per cent gave a variety of other responses, including further tightening of measures or no change beyond the current stabilisation phase.
What needs to happen when Covid-19 curbs are reviewed
The Singapore Tenants United For Fairness group wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday that the extension would “sink the boat for many of us who have been barely hanging on”, adding that the front-line business community here is “in deep despair and disrepair”.
Meanwhile, about 20 members of the savefnbsg chat group – a ground-up movement of more than 500 restaurants that came together during the circuit breaker last year – told ST on Thursday that its members felt the industry has been treated unfairly, and that the logic behind the rules has not been communicated clearly to them.
Chef Ivan Yeo of The 1925 Brewing Co called for more communication. “When we know the Government’s decision only four days before it happens, we can’t make any decisions,” he said.