(CNN)More than a year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s rich nations are beginning to accept that Covid-19 is not going away — despite high vaccination rates drastically cutting the number of hospitalizations and deaths.
But while they may agree that the virus is here to stay, in some form, for the foreseeable future, these countries have radically different approaches to dealing with it.Singapore, an island state of 5.69 million, and the UK, home to an estimated 66 million people, have had very different pandemic experiences — and outcomes — so far.While the UK has one of the highest numbers of Covid-19 related deaths in the world — nearly 129,000 since the pandemic started — only 36 people have died of Covid-19 in Singapore. For every 100,000 of the population in the UK, there have been 192.64 Covid-19 deaths in the UK. This goes down to 0.63 in Singapore, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The UK government was widely condemned for being slow to implement pandemic control measures, such as mask mandates and lockdowns, as the virus began to spread in spring 2020.
By contrast, Singapore was quick to shut its borders, implemented a comprehensive contact tracing and testing program, and imposed quarantine requirements early on.Now the two countries are charting different paths out of the pandemic; their plans are likely to be seen as test cases for other nations as they ramp up their vaccination programs.
In June, Singaporean lawmakers unveiled the country’s roadmap to a “new normal” in a letter published in the Straits Times, outlining a radical departure from Singapore’s previous “zero transmission” model.
So-called “zero-Covid” approaches have been adopted by several countries and territories across the Asia-Pacific region.But the letter revealed that Singapore’s authorities were looking to change tack, moving away from daily monitoring of cases to a focus on medical outcomes such as “how many fall very sick, how many in the intensive care unit, how many need to be intubated for oxygen, and so on,” they wrote.
Eventually, they hope, Covid-19 will be treated as a less severe disease, like influenza or chicken pox.
Weeks later, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson struck a similar note, predicting that Covid-19 would “become a virus that we learn to live with as we already do with flu.” Johnson announced plans to lift almost all coronavirus restrictions, including the mask mandate and social distancing rules, in England on July 19.He said the country’s successful vaccine rollout — under which 66% of the adult population has now received two doses of the jab — has broken the link between infections and severe illness.But Covid-19 case numbers have surpassed 50,000 a day in the UK at the same time that “normal life” resumes — nearly 52,000 new cases, and 49 deaths, were recorded on Friday.