Singapore is entering its third month of fighting the COVID-19 outbreak by imposing its strictest measures yet, dubbed by the government as the “circuit breaker”. Since 7th April, the country has entered into a partial lockdown with the closure of all non-essential services, including most workplaces and schools. Social gatherings of any size are also now banned in both public and private venues. One can’t have a small birthday party or even meet an extended family member for lunch at their house.
It is imperative now more than ever to abide by these new safe distancing measures. The number of new infections continue to rise in Singapore, with daily records being broken continually. The next few weeks will be crucial in the country’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The circuit breaker measures were introduced in a bid to help contain the COVID-19 virus after earlier efforts proved less successful.
The main aim is to keep people at home so that the virus is unable to spread to more people. This is done by limiting the number of people that a carrier is exposed to. So, for example, if an office worker was a carrier, in normal conditions, they might be able to spread the virus to their colleagues, especially those seated near them.
This is why the government is taking great pains to enforce the new measures and ensure that our Singaporeans are staying home. Most importantly, we must ensure that we are looking out for our more vulnerable populations and caring for their needs.
The government has emphasised in many of its circulars, including their daily Whatsapp updates, the importance of our seniors staying home.
This is hardly surprising. While it is said that most cases of COVID-19 are mild, there are still risk factors that could make the virus potentially deadly, such as if you are an elderly person or if you are already suffering from a pre-existing condition such as diabetes or heart disease. This is already being seen in Singapore; in mid-March, 25% of confirmed cases were aged 60 and above. More alarmingly, our first five fatalities from the virus are in the same age group, with four of them being above 70 years old.
What makes our elderly so vulnerable? As we get older, our immune systems tend to get weaker. Strong immune systems are needed to ward off infections, including the virus, so weaker immune systems typically end up having a harder time fighting off any invading antigens. This is coupled with more of our senior citizens now suffering from chronic diseases, including an uptick of those with multiple conditions.
These factors tend to make them more susceptible to complications caused by COVID-19, which is why the government has been making numerous pleas for our seniors to stay home.
Parents are naturally worried about the risks that COVID-19 pose to their children, especially those that are much younger, like babies and toddlers. This is because a baby’s immune system is significantly weaker and does not mature until they are a few months old.
Even so, the virus has not been found to affect children as much as it does the elderly or those with chronic conditions. A recent study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that cases of the virus in children were rare and even fewer were fatal. This backed up an earlier finding in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) which studied tens of thousands of infections in Wuhan and found that cases in children were rare.
While the virus may not be potentially fatal to children, they could end up being potential vectors for spreading the virus. The same CDC study revealed that children were less likely to have the two most common virus symptoms (cough and fever), making them more likely to be asymptomatic carriers. It is therefore important to safeguard their health and keep them at home as much as possible to ensure that we are keeping our communities safe.
Parents, we understand that children can be restless and being cooped up at home is a good long term solution. The new regulations allow children and their families to visit public parks to get some fresh air and some light exercise. While they are not allowed to play with other kids, getting out of the house is still something important that should be done at least a few times a week. However, be vigilant in making sure your children wash their hands with proper sanitizer as picking up the virus from shared surfaces is a definite possibility.
During this circuit breaker period, only essential services are allowed to operate. This obviously includes medical services like hospitals, clinics, and house call doctor services like ours.
If your child or your elderly dependent is displaying any COVID-19 symptoms like a fever, it is important to see a doctor immediately. There are over 900 Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPC) that have been activated to help deal with potential COVID-19 cases.
But, what do you do if your child has food poisoning? Or if your elderly dependent has to go for annual checkup as part of their diabetes management?
While healthcare services remain open, it is important to weigh the risks of going out, especially for vulnerable populations. For our elderly, it can be tiring and physically demanding to make a trip to the clinic, especially with the heightened safe distancing measures increasing wait times. Younger children are also generally more curious outside, touching potentially dirty surfaces and more.
Instead, consider engaging house call doctors. More and more people are scheduling our services during this period in a bid to stay socially responsible while still tending to their medical needs. In addition to everyday medical issues like a tummy ache or a sprained ankle, we also provide packages to manage chronic conditions, including blood work and nurse visits, as well as children’s health, including vaccinations. All of these will be done in the comforts of your own home, so you can continue to stay home and stay safe without any worry.