The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on 8 Sep that it will no longer provide updates on unlinked Covid-19 cases.
While some have applauded the move as a step in living with Covid-19, others say that unlinked cases are still important to track.
One of them is Temasek Holdings CEO, Ho Ching. She has been outspoken about Covid-19 since the pandemic began last year and this was no different.
However, others including former Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng disagreed with her in the comment section.
The debate raged on in the comments with no clear winner, but netizens were certainly taking sides.
All we can say is that perhaps they should be invited to a face to face debate. We’re sure many would watch that.
On 8 Sep, MOH said that they’d stop reporting linked cases as part of their daily updates.
Mdm Ho’s comment said that unlinked cases are useful to gauge if we are “having a runaway gallop or a steady trot”.
She argued that unlinked cases can show whether there are potential new cases and whether contact tracing is keeping up.
Further, she said that we should keep the ‘signals’ alive until around the end of the year.
Mr Cheng then replied in the comments, saying that if we are to move towards a Covid-zero policy, unlinked cases would no longer be relevant.
Mdm Ho replied to Mr Cheng saying that “while we are living with Covid, it doesn’t mean we should leave it to burn out of control”.
She raised the example of how high numbers of unlinked cases raise the probability of superspreader clusters that can spiral out of control.
As such, there’s still a need for contact tracing and other Covid-19 measures such as masks.
Mr Cheng then replied that both linked and unlinked cases are part of community transmission.
The linkage hence won’t matter if the aim is not to stub out every case, he said.
Instead, the Covid-19 R-value, which is the rate of transmission, is more important.
Additionally, something missing he notes in the public debate is the upper limit of deaths permissible.
Linking this upper limit to the R-value and seeing when there are too many total cases is a strategy he prefers instead of looking at unlinked cases.
However, Mdm Ho maintained the stance that we should be careful in case cases overwhelm.
Finally, Mr Cheng wrapped up his argument by emphasising that we have to pick and choose the measures that would be least disruptive to the economy and daily lives.
He argued that linking every case and quarantining them is “extremely disruptive”.
He ended off by saying that we all care deeply, even if they disagree on how to live life safely with the virus.
While that was it from him, Mdm Ho had a further question.
It would seem that there are different opinions about what exactly an endemic Covid-19 would look like.
As shown by this debate, there is the need to balance minimising disruption with avoiding spread that can overwhelm our hospitals.
However, what MOH has done, from their POV, is to take away focus from certain numbers that may increase fear and panic in the community.
Our focus on critical cases should continue, and it’s not that unlinked cases don’t matter but that there are more important numbers to consider in an endemic Covid-19 Singapore.
Perhaps both Mdm Ho and Mr Cheng are right on certain points, but it is a choice we have to make.
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