Comment: Going through current wave with almost no SMMs feels like a win

07/07/2022

I’m not sure about you but I’ve noticed a state of calm even though we are in the midst of yet another Covid-19 wave – this time brought about by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.

There is no panic buying, peak-hour traffic remains peak, and the watering holes continue to flow at night.

Pandemic fatigue or life goes on?

Whatever it is, I’m missing the bigger picture.

The big picture

You know what’s the difference between this current wave and previous waves?

That’s right, as the headline suggests, we are currently going through this wave – now at the peak or nearing the peak – with almost no Safe Management Measures (SMMs).

No circuit breaker, no heightened alert, no restricted group sizes, no capacity limits, nada. The only measure? Wearing masks indoors, which the populace have gotten used to.

I was reminded of this fact by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who spoke at the Nurses’ Merit Award ceremony on Jul 6.

He noted that with only the mandatory indoor mask-wearing and no other SMMs, it is “an important juncture in our journey towards endemicity”.

“We are trying our best to avoid doing that, because that is an important mark of living with Covid-19,” he said.

Indeed, Covid-19 is here to stay and there’s no point attempting to get rid of it completely given that Singapore is such an open economy.

Besides, looking at the current air ticket prices, it’s plain to see that Singaporeans need to feed the wanderlust.

Tightening SMMs whenever there’s a wave would run counter to our plan to live with Covid and that’s why it feels like a win: it’s like finding a lot near the entrance in a crowded carpark; choosing the right queue in a supermarket; missing the crowded bus but boarding an emptier bus seconds later; or realising there’s no queue at a popular hawker stall.

Come to think about it, these instances are almost like the good old halcyon pre-Covid days: yet another sign of endemicity.

Still to early to pop the champagne

Yes, this is a “but” story.

We still need to take our shots. Minister Ong said during his speech at the awards ceremony that going through a wave is like riding a bike down slope.

To slow the bike down, there’s the left brake (SMMs) and the right brake (vaccinations).

“It (the right brake ie vaccinations) also reduces transmission and more importantly, if you are infected, you are less likely to fall severely ill,” he added.

Being vaccinated and boosted is particularly important for the elderly.

Thankfully the health minister said in Parliament on Jul 5 that there are about 60,000 senior citizens aged 60 and above who have not taken their first booster shot, down from about 70,000 around a week ago.

This is down to the hard work of the Mobile Vaccination Teams deployed in the heartlands, making it much more convenient for our seniors to get their shots.

Continuing with his cycling analogy, Minister Ong added that the healthcare capacity remain the last line of defence, or cushion at the end.

“Our right brake – vaccinations. We are still vaccinating, but our coverage is already very high. So on the left, we try not to do; on the right, there is only so much we can do. What is left is the cushion at the end, which is our healthcare capacity. In other words, in this Omicron wave, by and large, the burden falls on you, on our hospitals, on our nurses, on our medical personnel.”

Without question, our healthcare workers are carrying the burden to make sure that we can continue to drive to the malls for groceries; heading to work; and eating together with friends at hawker centres.

For that, I think we owe it to the healthcare workers to get our shots and continue to wear our masks so that we just need to tap on the right brake and leave the left brake untouched.

Here’s to more calm days.

Cover photo credit: AIA Singapore Premier League Facebook page