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Covid and Singapore: Redux September

This post is a follow-up to this one I had from April. I wrote that on April 13. At that time, people around were in a bit of a panic state since operation times for certain services were halted nation-wide. We were also enforcing mask usage and minimal inter-family contact so it was a big deal. I had wanted to understand the reasons for these drastic actions and since we had data available, why not do it myself.

Fast forward half a year later, we are reopening society. I’m able to have a meal with some friends if I wanted to just as long as we’re less than 5 persons. I’m still working from home and so are a small majority of the country. Access to some services have changed with either longer wait times or extra restrictions to be in line with Government ‘safety’ measures.

I wanted to update some predictions I’ve made in the previous post and to share some thoughts on what’s happening at this exact moment. So here goes.

Previously on…

When I wrote my previous piece, it was at the period of time that officials just noticed that our low-cost foreign manual laborers were at heightened risk of catching the disease. They lived in more squalid conditions and were also working and socializing in much closer conditions by choice or culture.

It was an uphill task trying to separate a large portion of the population who were so embedded in our day-to-day crucial upkeep. It’s an interesting algorithm problem actually, to figure out the perfect balance between keeping 100% fit workers productive, keeping affected worker dormitories isolated and making a decision on suspect cases. (On an off-topic note, this would make a good sim game)

I had made a few predictions:

… a 5–6 day onset-to-positive result time frame might be most reliable for estimation and might be unlikely to go down significantly further.

I was reading the news and actually thought I had this wrong and that they managed to cut short this timeframe. Looking at the official graphs, it seems that the average did keep steady at roughly 5 days.

From https://covidsitrep.moh.gov.sg/

…it’s likely that we’ll see a real decrease in proportion of sick foreign workers from around 28 April (ie. ~ 20 days) with the peak being roughly around 18–19 Apr.

From: https://covidsitrep.moh.gov.sg/

I think I was quite spot-on with where the peak was. I was honestly not expecting the peak to be quite as steep and had assumed that getting back to a ‘norm’ would be like how the other waves had started to flatline.

In Retrospect…

The initial month of us starting to implement better procedures with our foreign laborers was probably a lot rockier than expected. I don’t believe the the small uptick in cases during May was a major screw-up but rather an adjustment to procedures. First, we had new testing requirements in dormitories which would account for the detection of latent cases. Then, as tech got better, we could better identify cases for testing.

What was interesting for me is that while the previous data (where testing is more organic) resembled more of a normal distribution, we’ve kind of forced a steeper curve during the April/May period. How I’m interpreting this is that by conscious action, we’ve force detection of cases that we’d normally not notice until much later (where they may already be spread) and hence we’ve prevented a much worse scenario.

I do think that even if we can continue flatlining the curve as we had in the previous waves, we’d probably have a situation that would last until Dec/Jan minimum instead of having the situation under some semblance of control since mid August.

At this current time, we’re starting to reopen more of the economy despite people questioning the safety of it since we do still have numerous reported cases daily. If we can keep the trends as they exist now though, I think we’re reasonably well equipped to handle come what may.