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How did Singapore react to the SARS outbreak then vs. the Wuhan coronavirus now?

By February 7, 2020Current

TL;DR – If we can fight SARS, together we can defeat the Wuhan coronavirus too.

To be honest, I don’t have much memory of what happened back in 2003 when the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) first hit Singapore – except that school was suspended and we had to stay at home for about two weeks.

Thankfully, this article here gives a background of the measures implemented by the authorities back then, to give us a gist of how far Singapore has come and how better prepared we are now as we combat the Wuhan coronavirus or 2019-nCoV today.

To save you from reading the 1,794 words article, here’s a summary of all that you need to know:

Then: When SARS came to Singapore in 2003

Now: 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

  • It was an unknown virus that no one was prepared for, and Singapore was caught off-guard without prevention and response plans in place to respond to disease outbreak.
  • A Ministry of Health (MO) task force was set up two weeks after the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a global alert on the outbreak
  • However, the command and control structure was inadequate as the crisis situation required “more than just medical approach.”
  • Five weeks after the first case was reported, a national control structure was created in response to SARS.
  • Precautions came too late, policies and procedures regarding risk stratification, contact mapping, contact tracing, quarantine and others had to be developed quickly amid virus outbreak.
  • All treatments were centralised at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
  • It was difficult for frontline healthcare workers to obtain supplies such as N95 respirators, sterile gloves, and full-body gowns.
  • Today, we have the Disease Outbreak Response System (DORSCON), a colour-coded framework that describes the current disease outbreak situation and what needs to be done.
  • A multi-ministry taskforce on the Wuhan coronavirus was formed on Jan 22, the same day when the first suspected case — which later turned out to be positive — emerged.
  • Jointly chaired by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, the taskforce comprises a cross-section of Cabinet ministers spanning various portfolios and hence, there is a clearer chain of command.
  • Present-day, Singapore has the necessary protocols in place. The Republic has also beefed up on its healthcare and isolation capacity with new hospitals, as well as the National Centre for Infectious Diseases.
  • Contingency plans have also been put in place, where student hostels are converted into quarantine facilities.
  • All public hospitals are capable of handling the Wuhan virus today.
  • Today, most healthcare workers, including new staff, already have their own personal protective equipment. A steady supply of surgical and N95 masks will also be available should the frontline healthcare workers need them.
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Unlike in 2003, where social media was non-existent and information wasn’t as abundant, the rise of social media and the accessibility to information today have unfortunately also given rise to disinformation that fuels further panic.

Coronavirus expert says correct comparison of Wuhan virus is not SARS or MERS but a bad cold

 

Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of fake messages and unfounded rumours circulating related to the Wuhan coronavirus. However, if you receive these messages or any other unsubstantiated information over WhatsApp or other online platforms, it is advised to not forward or circulate them.

Instead, always remember to get information directly on official sources at:
www.moh.gov.sg (MOH website)
Gov.sg (Gov.sg Whatsapp)

 

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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

More posts by Gabrielle Teo

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