One Country Nailed It With the Virus— Until Now

Singapore's numbers were low until recently
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2020 4:25 PM CDT
Singapore Had It Nailed With the Virus— Until Now
A migrant worker from India trims the trees along Holland Road in Singapore on Sunday, Apr. 19, 2020.   (AP Photo/YK Chan)

Singapore's much-lauded plan to beat the coronavirus has run into a hitch—and critics are pouncing, the Wall Street Journal reports. To be fair, the Asian city-state did lower infections with a mix of testing, quarantining, and impressive contact tracing. But its blind spot seems to be migrant workers. Health officials announced an extra 1,016 cases Wednesday, per Reuters, and almost all are among the hundreds of thousands of poor workers from India, Bangladesh, and other countries living in crowded dormitories. The government has responded by amping up testing and moving some workers off-site, but critics say it's too little, too late for a group that's often overlooked in the wealthy nation.

"They should have done what they're doing now much earlier by putting them in different housing situations," says the head of Transient Workers Count Too. Others say the government's hesitation to close the economy until early April led to more infections, including some at a shopping mall that's popular with migrant workers. And Fortune points out that Singapore, unlike South Korea, failed to pivot from contact tracing to community testing to reduce infections in at-risk groups. To critics, it's about the people you won't see in Crazy Rich Asians: "When all this is over, the pandemic should be a lesson for a public policy reset," says one. "Keeping them in such living conditions creates systemic vulnerabilities waiting to erupt." (More coronavirus stories.)

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