As of last night, the official Zika cases in Singapore stands at 151, with some cases found in new neighbourhoods. It’s quite certain that the numbers will continue to rise. Then, we start to wonder if Zika might not just become the new normal, but also be present in every corner of Singapore? We hope for the best, but must prepare for the worst.
What is Singapore’s game plan here? Does the government not have a plan, or have a plan but doesn’t want to discuss it for fear of causing undue alarm? I’m sure some of us are thinking about an epidemic situation, where Zika has gotten out of control, and the far reaching repercussions beyond just the direct health impact is full blown. Then what do we do?
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr Tom Frieden was quoted in NBC News:
“Any time there is a disease outbreak in Singapore, it tells us how difficult that disease is to control.”
I’m sure this must be a compliment to our government’s ability to handle a disease outbreak. We have the machinery to mange the situation. We have had some experience with SARS and other flu pandemics. We have been tested, and we had pulled through. But every situation is different, so the question is if we are adapting appropriately to deal with this particular outbreak?
Our National Environment Agency (NEA) speaks about all the intensified vector control efforts being carried out in the hot zones. But what about other areas? Is the NEA just going to play catch-up, going after a hot spot only after it has been identified? At the same time, of course, we’re also responsible for our own environment. Is everyone intensifying their 5-step Mozzie Wipeout regime?
We aren’t yet seeing Zika in epidemic proportions. But the situation is serious enough. Numerous countries have issued various sorts of advisories against travel to Singapore. This includes the US, UK, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia. We can expect to see a drop in visitor arrivals. This, in turn, will have an impact on our tourism industry. Hospitality, F&B, and retail, among others, will be affected by this outbreak. This month, September, is the F1 month. It’ll probably be slower business than the same time last year.
The Zika situation here is a timely reminder how a problem like this can impact the whole country. Zika doesn’t kill like dengue does, so it seems like a smaller issue than dengue is. The effects of microcephaly are, of course, a serious problem too, and hence the grave concern about Zika.
It’s also a timely reminder of the five pillars of total defence that we’ve all heard and learnt about from young, but often fail to see it’s importance. Defence, isn’t just about Military Defence, but also Civil Defence, Economic Defence, Social Defence and Psychological Defence.
Even if you don’t see Zika as “your problem” now, it is still a problem that all of us have to deal with.
Then, when we pull through, Singapore will be the model nation to show how to deal with Zika, and other diseases outbreak.