How Singapore Has Curbed The Spread Of COVID-19 In A Unique Way

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003 resulted in more than 8000 cases and 800 deaths, in 26 countries. At that time, SARS was successfully controlled by means of syndromic surveillance, isolation of patients, and strict enforcement of quarantine. By interrupting all human-to-human transmission, SARS was effectively eradicated.

COVID-19  threatens to become a global pandemic that could wipe off $1 trillion from the world’s gross domestic product.

Singapore is a small, globally-connected city-state, with an estimated population of 5.6 million people (as of 2018) and population density of 7804 people per square km. Singapore is a rich nation without healthcare shortages. It has been ruled by one political party since independence.

Currently, Singapore is facing COVID-19. But it is controlling the spread of COVID-19 successfully. The local media support the government’s messaging without questioning, from washing hands to staying at home if someone is not feeling well.

What Are The Similarities And Differences Between SARS And COVID-19?

The global community is much better prepared now, in comparison to the SARS outbreak in 2003.

There are many similarities between the SARS and COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019). In both, the main transmission route is respiratory droplets, although viral shedding via faeces has also been reported for both viruses.

The whole genome of COVID-19 has a 86% similarity with SARS. The angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), found in the lower respiratory tract of humans, has been identified as the receptor used for cell entry for both SARS and COVID-19. Both have a median incubation time of about 5 days.

COVID-19 differs from SARS in terms of infectious period, transmissibility, clinical severity, and extent of community spread. By contrast, evidence from ‘exported COVID-19 cases’ suggest that transmission during the early phase of illness also contributes to overall transmission; therefore, isolation of more severe patients is too late and ‘pre-symptomatic transmission’ is making ‘temperature screening’ less effective.

Genomic analyses of the new Coronavirus have revealed that its spike protein differs from those of close relatives and the capsid protein possess a site on it which is activated by a host-cell enzyme called furin. The furin is found in lots of human tissues, including the lungs, liver and small intestines, which means that the virus has the potential to attack multiple organs.

By interrupting all human-to-human transmission, SARS was effectively eradicated but the cases of COVID-19 have been increasing with more than 3800 deaths, mostly in China.

The best and simplest protection against Coronavirus: washing hands.

Symptoms Of The COVID-19

Common symptoms of the COVID-19 disease include:

  1. Fever
  2. Cough (mostly dry cough)
  3. Runny nose
  4. Shortness of breath
  5. Fatigue

If anyone has mild flu-like symptoms like cough, runny nose, sore throat and fever, contact a doctor. During the unwell period, do not go school or work place, avoid crowds, stay at home and don’t avoid doctors. Avoid touching your face without washing your hands; your face is sacred.

According to the World Health Organisation, it is best to stay three feet from a sick person with minimum time engagement. That will carry least risk. The Coronavirus is a delicate microbe that is killed easily with disinfectant.

The New York Times in a recent article, provided all the possible answers to the questions related to transmission of COVID-19.

Zero Deaths

Case summary in Singapore (as of March 8, 2020, 1200 hours) shows zero deaths. Among the 60 ‘active cases’, 51 are stable and 9 cases are critical. All the 60 patients are hospitalised.

Real time updates may be seen here.

How Is Singapore Handling The Situation?

Despite being an international business hub, Singapore has kept infection rates down. Here are some steps taken by Singapore government to tackle with the spread of Coronavirus:

Unlike the other countries that are witnessing Coronavirus cases in travellers from China, Singapore is concerned with more human-to-human transmissions of the COVID-19 virus.

Tough laws for tracing and containing COVID-19 cases. Citizens who have travelled to infected places are quarantined. The principle is that if the person under quarantine developed illness, that person would not spread the disease.

Anyone giving false information, about their travel history, faces punitive action and faces even a ban on re-entering Singapore.

People have a strong sense of civic duty. Citizens and people living in Singapore put public interest over their own. They accept government orders to quarantine and report their location to authorities using an online system.

Singapore has a world-class health system. Health facilities in Singapore are of a high level. Recently, it has deployed a new test to track links between infected patients which will help authorities to stop the virus spreading further.

Singapore citizens returning to their homeland are placed on 14-day paid mandatory leave-of-absence (LoA) starting from the day they arrive.

The Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) issued notices to a number of companies engaged in profiteering from the Coronavirus situation in the country and were selling masks at a higher price to benefit from the increased demand.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reassured its citizens that the virus didn’t appear as deadly as SARS, meaning that most people would likely experience a minor illness even if they contracted it.

Prevention And Response Plan Of The Singapore Government

When there is an outbreak resulting in the spread of an infectious disease worldwide, Singapore puts in a ‘prevention and response plan.’

As part of this plan, the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (DORSCON) becomes active. DORSCON is a colour-coded framework that shows the current disease situation and provides general guidelines on what needs to be done to prevent the spread of the disease and finally reduce the impact of infections.

DORSCON takes into account the current disease status overseas, transmission of the disease, possibility of disease arrival in Singapore and possible impact of the disease on Singapore’s community.

There are 4 statuses of DORSCON– Green, Yellow, Orange and Red, depending on the severity and spread of the disease.

During the SARS spread in Singapore, the DORSCON status was orange. It means that the disease was severe and spread easily, but still contained. During the current COVID-19 , the status of the DORSCON is the same, i.e. orange.

 

Source: Government Of Singapore

What Happens To The Suspected Cases?

When suspected cases come in to the knowledge then following steps are taken in Singapore:

All suspected cases are transferred to the hospitals through ambulances to reduce their exposure to the general public. All such cases are reported to the Ministry of Health promptly.

Suspected cases are isolated in the hospitals. Many suspected cases turn out to have other mild diseases such as the common flu.

Ambulance crews who attend the suspect cases to the hospital, wear personal protective equipment, for they come into close contact with patients and are at higher risk of infection.

The risk of infection from transient contact is very low. There is no need to avoid places where suspected and confirmed cases have been.

5 Ms That Check The Spread Of COVID-19

Singapore is controlling the spread of COVID-19 through these 5 Ms:

  1. Manage health by keeping a close watch on the body for symptoms.
  2. Manage clean hands through good personal hygiene of regular hand washing with soap and water.
  3. Minimise contact with those who are unwell.
  4. Mask up when unwell and visit the doctor immediately.
  5. Monitor the news related to COVID-19 with government websites, especially the health department and press releases.

Apart from the above suggestions, the Singapore government suggests the practice of good personal hygiene. An unwell person should cover their mouth with tissue paper when sneezing or coughing, if sick avoid crowded places, monitor temperature twice daily and stay at home, strictly follow quarantine orders, throw litter in bins, use masks and tissues, keep toilets clean and dry, keep tables clean, keep home and surroundings clean and ventilated, use private transport to the clinic, do not go near live animals including poultry and birds and do not eat raw and undercooked meats.

Singapore is showing the world that when all the stars are aligned, the virus may not be as uncontrollable as feared. India may also learn from the successful steps and approach by the Singapore government to control the spread of COVID-19 virus and related health problems.

The political will, early case detection, prompt isolation of ill people, comprehensive contact tracing, immediate quarantine of all contacts, community quarantine, and implementation of social distancing may contribute to the eradication of COVID-19 from India and world.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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