Second wave of infections arise after countries around the world lift COVID-19 measures
Singapore should remain cautious even when our circuit breaker ends.
Singapore’s circuit breaker is set to end soon on Jun 1, and many of us may be anxious to return to our regular lives.
However, there are reasons to remain cautious even as the circuit breaker ends. Some countries that have opened up from their equivalent of our circuit breaker before us are seeing a second wave of infections, brought about by social gatherings and a lack of safe distancing.
We take a look at some of these countries and their experiences after easing restrictions:
1. South Korea
In February, South Korea had the highest number of cases outside of China. To contain the spread of the virus, the country closed down schools, encouraged work from home arrangements, canceled or postponed concerts, sporting events and suspended religious gatherings.
As the number of cases fell, South Korea relaxed their rules on May 6 and people started returning to their normal lives – visiting museums, libraries and going back to offices.
However, South Korea saw a spike of cases on May 10, after a person who later tested positive for the virus went club-hopping at Seoul’s Itaewon district.
Germany eased its lockdown on May 6 and allowed more shops to open and for students to slowly return to school.
However, it only took a few days of the restrictions being eased up for the number of cases to rise again in a number of districts in Germany.
Outbreaks at meat processing plants, one of which saw 150 new cases, meant that local governments had to impose the lockdown restrictions again in these districts.
The number of COVID-19 infections are now growing in Germany, with each infected person spreading the virus to more people because of the relaxed restrictions. The country’s chancellor, Angela Markel, has also launched an “emergency brake” to allow restrictions to be reimposed if needed.
Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, ended their 76-day lockdown on Apr 8.
Unfortunately, a month later, China reported that a new cluster of five people had emerged at a residential compound in Wuhan.
This caused a lot of fear among residents in Wuhan and prompted the government to launch a mass testing campaign to detect more cases in the population.
Other parts of China have also seen a rise in cases after restrictions were eased.
Shenyang, a city in northeast China, reported its first local case after 89 days, causing the reopening of schools to be delayed as a result.
The Jilin province in China also put lockdown restrictions back in place again after new clusters began to emerge in cities in the province.
Restrictions started to ease up in early May, with hair salons, construction sites and restaurants opening again. However, it was only a week into opening when a large spike of 36 cases were reported on May 10, the highest in a month.
The Lebanese Prime Minister said that this was due to people ignoring safe distancing guidelines and being negligent and irresponsible.
More than 10 people contracted the virus after a returning expat, who later tested positive for COVID-19, violated self-isolation rules and hosted visitors at a gathering.
A new four-day “total” lockdown has been imposed to stop the spread of this second wave of infections, which would see restaurants, malls and retail stores closing yet again.
5. Saudi Arabia
On Mar 23, Saudi Arabia imposed a nationwide curfew to control the spread of the virus, which had infected 562 at the time.
After more than a month under lockdown, Saudi Arabia lifted the curfew in most cities for the month of Ramadan on Apr 26.
People were allowed to visit retail stores and shopping malls from 9am to 5pm, while observing strict physical distancing rules.
However, since this reopening, there has been a sharp rise in the number of cases. On May 3, there were over 1,600 cases reported and the number of cases have been rising ever since. There are now over 50,000 cases in the country.
This prompted the Saudi government to re-impose 24-hour lockdown restrictions after the fasting month on May 23, which coincides with the Eid al-Fitr holiday. The government also informed Muslims to defer their pilgrimage plans in case the government decides to cancel this year’s hajj.
Thailand ordered retail malls, restaurants and gyms to close almost two months ago to curb the spread of the virus. Following a significant decrease in the number of cases reported daily, Thailand reopened these businesses again on May 17.
On the day of the reopening, long queues were spotted at major shopping malls in Bangkok with people eager to resume shopping after a long break.
However, a government official warned that the easing of these restrictions will be revoked, and malls will be closed again, if the number of cases rise during this period.
Remain vigilant even after the circuit breaker ends
These countries that have opened up after their lockdowns are now experiencing a surge in the number of cases again.
Although we may be able to look forward to more restrictions being lifted after the circuit breaker ends, we should still remain vigilant and practise social responsibility to prevent a second wave of infections from occurring in Singapore.