Experts warn of increase in of Covid cases: People should 'not behave like it's life as usual'
Testing the limits of the rules in phase two will likely lead to a spike in Covid-19 infections, experts warn
A large crowd of shoppers stand shoulder to shoulder while waiting for their turn to enter a mall.
In Holland Village, Lorong Mambong, a pedestrian mall from evening till dawn, was reopened to vehicular traffic to prevent people from gathering.
Similar scenes were played out across the island over the weekend as people emerged from their homes to enjoy the outdoors during phase two of the economy reopening.
This has led some medical experts to warn of a likely rise in Covid-19 community cases over the next few weeks, with the possibility of certain restrictions being reinstated in the event of a significant surge.
Dr Asok Kurup, an infectious disease expert who runs a private practice in Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, said: "People think that just because they are wearing masks, they are safe, but that is not the case. It gives a false sense of security.
"We know that the disease can also be transmitted via surfaces, and people touching their faces and adjusting their masks (when they go out to eat) could increase the risk of infection."
Noting the next few weeks could be telling in terms of keeping the coronavirus under control, he implored the people: "Do not behave like it is life as usual."
Dr Alex Cook, vice-dean of research at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health in the National University of Singapore, said Singapore could learn from other countries such as South Korea and New Zealand, which faced setbacks after seemingly getting the disease under control.
Yesterday, South Korea confirmed it was battling a second wave of infections, and Australia's Victoria state reimposed strict restrictions after a spike in cases following a relaxation of the restrictions.
As to whether Singapore can counter a Covid-19 resurgence, Dr Cook said: "The worst-case scenario is to go back to circuit breaker mode, I am sure most of us dread that idea."
He urged the people to moderate their socialising activities, and continue such precautions as hand hygiene and mask use.
Infectious disease specialist Leong Hoe Nam said it would be a "miracle" if Singapore escapes a second wave of infections after the experience of other countries.
He felt dining in at food outlets was a big risk, as people would not be wearing masks while eating and drinking.
Dr Leong also said the five-person limit for gatherings could become problematic if the friends become too sociable or rowdy, which can increase the risk of spreading the virus.
Warning people not to test the limits of the rules, he said: "Be aware the virus is a predator... seeking out the weakest link. Any lapse could be the fire that starts the next spread."
While expecting a rise in cases, Dr Jeremy Lim, an associate professor at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said people need not be paranoid.
"The acid test is whether Singapore can nip the outbreaks quickly and decisively. If our preparations are robust, we can be confident of keeping the situation under control despite some spikes," he said.
The Government needs to make tough decisions like closing high-risk premises, and the public must be prepared for limited "lockdowns" in areas where clusters emerge, he added.
Dr Kurup said Singapore's expanded testing strategy would pick up cases in the community should a reinfection occur.
Dr Chia Shi-Lu, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said Singapore's reopening is going quite well.
He said the Government has taken into account the possibility of subsequent waves of infection, which is why the path to normalcy may be prolonged.
"The key is to identify and isolate clusters quickly, hence the need for TraceTogether and other tracking apps," said Dr Chia, adding that other measures such as the wearing of masks will also help.
Some individuals, such as freelancer Yvette Chia, 58, are taking phase two with caution.
She said: "I am not too concerned about going out. I try to do my shopping in the early morning on weekdays."
Others such as events consultant Jay Lim, 48, has been meeting friends daily since last Friday. Speaking to TNP last night while he was with friends at Der Biergarten restaurant and bar in Prinsep Street, Mr Lim said: "I was concerned when I saw the news about second waves in South Korea and Beijing, but when I went out, I saw everyone was in masks and I was more comfortable."
Though Der Biergarten was 90 per cent full, he said he still felt safe as the tables were spaced apart.