Singapore ranked as best place to be during COVID-19 amid spikes
By Celine Chen
For the first time, the city state of Singapore has claimed the top spot as the best place to be during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thanks to its steady vaccine rollout and strong control of the deadly virus, the financial center of Southeast Asia managed to edge out New Zealand which had been ranked as Number 1 since Bloomberg's COVID-19 resilience ranking was launched in November last year.
However, the assessment came before locally transmitted cases in Singapore hit 16 on Thursday, the highest in nine months and the discovery of a new cluster among migrant workers living in a dorm last week.
The authorities have immediately enforced a host of measures to contain the spread on the island which is well-known for its stability and high standards of health and hygiene.
While both New Zealand and Singapore are extremely close in their resilience tally and have near-zero community infections, the latter’s vaccination campaign is more advanced, noted the ranking report.
According to the ranking report for April, “Singapore has already administered vaccines equivalent to cover a fifth of its population, an aspect of pandemic control that other virus eliminators like New Zealand, Australia and Taiwan are lagging on.”
Updated monthly, the grading takes into account an array of factors, such as case rates, vaccination rates, fatalities, healthcare, lockdown severity and economic performance, to assess which countries are most effectively containing infections without enormous damage to their lifestyle or economy.
The collated data is used to calculate a final “resilience score”. In April, New Zealand’s score was 79.6, a mere 0.1 points behind Singapore’s 79.7.
Singapore is among the five Asian countries in the top 10 spots. Taiwan, South Korea and Japan are ranked 5th, 6th and 7th respectively, while Hong Kong claims the 10th position.
Australia and Israel take up the 3rd and 4th spots, with UAE and Finland in 8th and 9th placings respectively.
However, the emergence of a new cluster of infections among vaccinated and recovered migrant workers living in a dormitory last week might hurt Singapore's standing in the next assessment. The authorities have since tightened measures again to prevent a resurgence after tens of thousands living in dormitories were tested positive last year.
The authorities said clinical assessments would be carried out to determine if the new positive cases are prolonged shedders or reinfected.
Local infections have been few until Thursday when 16 new cases were discovered, the highest in nine months. Imported cases continued to form the bulk of infections, with 19 people placed on stay-home notice upon arrival. There were no dorm cases.
However, even in the throes of the pandemic last year, Singapore was widely regarded as one of the safest countries in the world. So far, Singapore has recorded about 61,120 cases and 30 deaths.
Singapore's overall management of the pandemic figured prominently in the country's latest report to the United Nations, submitted as part of a routine review of the human rights record of its member states.
Since the start of the crisis last year, Singapore has taken steps to protect low-income and vulnerable residents, including migrant workers, apart from rolling out economic and social support measures to support businesses and residents.
"Singapore's response to the pandemic has demonstrated that we have the social capital to emerge stronger and deal with future crise," the country said in its national report.
On Wednesday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said the relationship between the response to COVID-19 and economic activity is expected to become more muted over time as companies and people gain more experience in coping with their work and life during a pandemic.
The central bank expects Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) to exceed the upper end of the official 4 to 6 percent forecast range, barring any significant setback in activity from a weaker recovery of the global economy, or a surge in locally transmitted cases.
MAS believes the world economy will hasten from the second quarter of this year, about half a year after a pandemic resurgence set back recovery.
The global economy is projected to regain its end-2019 level of output by Q2 and expand by 6.2 percent for the year, it said in its April's macroeconomic review.