1/ Today I've seen/heard more than one American take that #Singapore
's spike in #COVID19
cases is due to easing social distancing measures too quickly.
I'd like to do a thread about what's really going on in Singapore and what lessons can be learnt from it.
2/ Firstly, #Singapore
spike is *not* to do with the easing of social distancing measures. Social distancing measures in Singapore right now are the toughest they've ever been. Singapore was being heralded as a success *before* our social distancing came in.
3/ I wrote this piece with journalists in #Taiwan
was put on a partial lockdown, which our government insists on calling a "circuit breaker". In it, we detail the good moves made to keep #COVID19
4/ After this piece was published, though, the wheels came off #Singapore
's "gold standard" #COVID19
response. The day after the piece was published, two migrant worker dormitories in Singapore were gazetted under the Infectious Diseases Act as "isolation areas".
5/ Right now, #Singapore
's sharp increase of #COVID19
cases is coming from the discovery of the coronavirus spreading like wildfire inside migrant worker dormitories in the country. I published a piece on this today: https://wethecitizens.substack.com/p/wtc-long-read-a-perfect-storm-for
6/ There are about 323,000 migrant workers—from countries like Bangladesh, India, and China—living in dormitories in #Singapore
. They generally live about 12 – 20 men in a room, making social distancing a concept they understand, but cannot practice. #COVID19
7/ Here comes another myth to dispel about #COVID19
. There's a lot of talk about how heat weakens or even kills the virus. I don't know if that's true; it seems like there isn't enough evidence yet. But #Singapore
's experience shows that heat is not a protector from the virus.
8/ Even if one argues that many Singaporeans are living with aircon, this isn't the case with the migrant worker dormitories, most of which do not have aircon. In my story, a worker tells me his room is unbearably hot. Yet #COVID19
is spreading. https://twitter.com/BrynnTannehill/status/1253652643416858624
is now facing an epic problem. It's simultaneously a public health issue, a humanitarian issue, a logistical issue, and an economic issue. #COVID19
10/ Over 80% of the #COVID19
cases in the country are migrant workers living in dormitories. In a move to try to contain this and prevent it from spreading to the rest of the population in #Singapore
, the government has put all dorms on lockdown.
11/ 25 dormitories have been declared "isolation areas"—the men are confined to their rooms except for essentials like going to the bathroom. At mealtimes, a representative goes to collect food for the rest, and they eat in their rooms. Basically, the dorms are like prisons now.
12/ Locking down the dorms is one way to prevent #COVID19
spreading from the dorms to the rest of #Singapore
, but the lockdown is not stopping #COVID19
from spreading *inside* the dorms. In the worst hit dorm, over 15% of 13,000 men have already tested positive.
13/ The government is trying to reduce density in the dorms to try to stop the spread. 10,000 workers (those working in essential services, i.e. people we still need to keep #Singapore
functioning) have been moved out already. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/coronavirus-mega-covid-19-facility-being-built-at-tanjong-pagar-terminal-to-house
14/ But it also doesn't end with moving workers. There's also testing, 'cos we need to identify those who are #COVID19
positive so we can isolate them and stop them from infecting others. But how many tests can #Singapore
15/ The government says that #Singapore
is doing up to 3,000 #COVID19
tests a day, 1,500 – 2,500 of which are done on migrant workers. That sounds like a lot.
Then we remember that there are 323,000 migrant workers in dormitories. https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/coronavirus-up-to-3000-tests-for-covid-19-done-daily-in-spore-most-on-foreign
16/ The #COVID19
policy/strategy on testing migrant workers isn't very clear. Those of us who are trying to keep track and document are having a hard time figuring it out. When we ask the workers now stuck in dorms, we find that they aren't very clear about it either.
17/ So this is all one big nightmare that has consumed #Singapore
response. I mean, just look at that curve.
(Chart from @sporemoh
's April 23 situation report.)
18/ What should we learn from this? I think what we're seeing in #Singapore
is that even if you do most things right, if you're not considering or proactively looking out for the most vulnerable and marginalised in your society, you're not going to effectively fight #COVID19
is enabled by, and in turn amplifies, existing inequalities and injustices. In #Singapore
, crowded living conditions, coupled with the lack of protections that left migrant workers afraid to speak out/report sick, helped the virus to spread. https://wethecitizens.substack.com/p/wtc-long-read-a-perfect-storm-for
20/ This isn't as simple as arguing over social distancing or lockdowns. And it's not a discussion of whether UV rays/heat kills #COVID19
demonstrates that this is a complex problem that can quickly spin out of control if those in charge drop the ball.
P.S. For the love of God (any god) don't drink or inject disinfectant into yourselves. #COVID19 #StaySafe #StayHome
For everyone who is now trying argue with or talk at me about heat or UV light killing the coronavirus: I don't know for sure what heat or UV light does to the coronavirus. From what I've seen, I don't think there's enough evidence to be absolutely sure yet.
People are arguing that Singaporeans have aircon (so not hot enough), or the dorms don't have enough natural light (so not enough sunlight), and that's why it's not killing off #COVID19
. Honestly? I don't know, I'm not a researcher doing the experiments to figure this out.
But what I think I can say is that, from what I've seen in #Singapore
and of coverage of #COVID19
in other places, sunlight/heat is not enough of a factor to offset clear, decisive, evidence-based policy-making and epidemic prevention measures.
To those trying to strong-arm my thread to fit your narrative, give it a rest. #COVID19
spread within dorms *before* there was a lockdown; the lockdown is now a drastic measure to try to ring-fence the virus so it doesn't spread to the rest of #Singapore
This is not a thread about how lockdowns don't work or make things worse. This is a thread that points out that #COVID19
measures that don't proactively think about protecting the vulnerable and marginalised will have massive blind spots.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.