Here’s Why So Many S’poreans Are Getting Infected in the UK: It Was a ‘Stupid Error’

Last Updated on 2020-03-25 , 8:31 pm

Remember the days when the Ministry of Health (MOH) used to report just four or five new Covid-19 cases a day?

It was a simpler time, where being anti-social wasn’t encouraged and we could speak loudly on public transport.

Image: Distractify

But ever since 18 March, the country has seen a huge spike in cases; 54 new Covid-19 infections were reported yesterday.

But what has caused this sudden spike?

You see, over the last few weeks, the number of coronavirus cases around the world has increased at an alarming rate while the rate of infection in China has started to slow.

As the World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, the pandemic is “accelerating”.

He said it took 67 days from the beginning of the outbreak in China in December for the virus to infect the first 100,000 people worldwide.

In comparison, it took 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases, he said.

And as I write this, the figure is steadily climbing towards 400,000.

Image: Giphy

So, the reason Singapore is experiencing an overall spike in cases is that there’s an increase in imported cases from abroad.

And there’s one country in particular that has infected many Singaporeans; the UK.

A ‘Stupid Error’

Just a few days ago, half of the newly reported Covid-19 cases were from the United Kingdom.

But why the UK? Does the coronavirus enjoy being in Fish and Chips or something?

Image: Meme Centre

Not quite. It all boils down to one stupid error.

You see, unlike many countries, the UK had one very unorthodox strategy in response to the Covid-19 pandemic; let everyone get the virus.

Reader: You mean their tactic to combat the deadly disease was to let everyone get it?


Reader: …

Reader: I’m confused.

Don’t worry, the rest of the world is too.

Herd Immunity

You see, the UK was employing a strategy called herd immunity.

According to Business Insider, herd immunity is when a large enough percentage of a population is immune to a disease so that it cannot spread widely.

What percentage of the population must be immune largely depends on how contagious the disease in question is.

Herd immunity can be achieved through a vaccine, like in the case of smallpox and measles, or it can occur naturally as people are infected, recover, and are then immune to further infection.

Sounds rational right? Keep the elderly isolated and let everyone else contract the disease so the whole country will eventually achieve herd immunity.

Image: wiki

There’s just one problem with this strategy; Covid-19 is not like the seasonal flu.

Image: Giphy

With the flu, there is no need for contact tracing or mandatory quarantines because cases are usually mild; the death rate from seasonal flu is typically less than 1%.

Conversely, Covid-19 has an estimated fatality rate of 3.4%. 

Covid-19 is also more contagious than the flu, which explains the rapid spread of the disease.

Singaporeans were told to defer all travel abroad on 19 March and that all those who choose to travel despite the advisory would be served with a 14-day Stay-Home notice when they arrived, but it was too late.

Many Singaporeans had been already infected in the UK and brought the disease back with them by then.

There’s a reason why National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said he was concerned about the UK; it’s because they had seemingly “abandoned any measure to contain or restrain the virus.”

And because they treated the coronavirus like the flu, officials in the UK underestimated the “immediate pressure that Covid-19 would place on hospitals if allowed to circulate freely”, according to the National Post.

Overwhelm the healthcare system

Ultimately, the reason why the herd immunity strategy won’t work is that it’ll end up overwhelming healthcare systems.

That’s why more and more countries are implementing lockdowns even though some of them don’t even have one reported case yet.

As the National Post reports, when countries reach their capacity to treat Covid-19 patients in extreme respiratory distress, the mortality rate “explodes”.

Moreover, this strategy makes the dangerous assumption that young people won’t die from the disease, which is not true.

So, while it might work for the flu, herd immunity was not the best idea to contain the coronavirus.

Don’t worry though, the UK has learnt its lesson.

Three-week lockdown

The country on Monday (23 Mar) ordered a three-week lockdown, shutting “non-essential” shops and services, and banning gatherings of more than two people.

“From this evening (Monday) I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home,” Johnson said.

“Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.”

Just in time?

Schools have been closed, as have pubs, bars, nightclubs, theatres, cafes, and leisure centres, and mass gatherings have been banned.

Johnson called the pandemic “the biggest threat this country has faced for decades”, adding that it could overwhelm their state-run National Health Service (NHS).

“I urge you at this moment of national emergency to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives,” he said.

However, according to CNA, there are some signs that show the virus is taking hold quicker than in Italy at the same point.

Yes, it’s that bad.

The UK currently has 6,650 Covid-19 cases. 335 people have died from the disease so far.

Let’s hope that their “stupid error” doesn’t prove too costly.

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