Vox Looks To Singapore On What Happens If Social Distancing Were To End

We’re almost 3 weeks into ‘Circuit Breaker’ period. Everyone’s probably still trying to cope with recent tightened measures that forced more businesses – once deemed essential – to close.

Which is why Singaporeans were collectively baffled when popular internet news site Vox tweeted that Singapore saw a spike in Covid-19 cases after “easing some social distancing measures”.

vox singapore social distancingSource

Wait, what?

We’re just as confused as you. How did it escape the attention of all Singaporeans that our social distancing measures were apparently toned down? Perhaps, there is some misunderstanding somewhere.

Giving Vox the benefit of the doubt, MS News took the liberty of checking out their video link for any missing context.

Vox editor said Singapore “reimposed” harsh social distancing

In general, Vox discussed how long social distancing needed to last, and when and how normal life can be re-established.

While there was no direct mention in that Singapore eased on social distancing measures, Vox’s co-founder and editor-at-large Ezra Klein had said,

Singapore had a very strong early response, and then they began seeing a second wave of cases recently, and they reimposed very harsh social distancing.

Not that we want to nitpick, but “reimposed” insinuates that social distancing measures were toned down before being enforced a second time.

But did that really happen?

The second wave of cases in Singapore came from the infection of Work Permit holders living in worker dormitories.

When it hit, the government responded by enforcing the ‘Circuit Breaker’, which built upon existing measures, not re-enforcing measures once put in place.

From 13 Mar to now, social distancing has only gotten progressively more stringent. So saying that we eased on the measures couldn’t be further from the truth.

Vox should know these stringent measures in Singapore

A look at the comments thread of Vox’s post will tell you right away that they had arrived at a misleading conclusion.

Here’s a recap of social distancing measures that were first put in place in mid-March, as the Ministry of Health (MOH) strived to tighten control of human traffic in crowded places.

We’re pretty sure we need no reminders for them, but we thought it’d be good to help Vox out by listing them.

MOH Advises Eatery Owners To Space Seating Apart By At Least 1 Metre For Social Distancing

S’pore Ticketed Events Of At Least 250 Attendees To Be Cancelled, As Part Of Covid-19 Measures

Not even weddings were spared.

S’pore Wedding Organisers Should Seat Guests Further Apart Instead Of Crowding Them Around Tables

Back then, we were still seeing double digit daily updates. On 17 Mar, 23 new Covid-19 cases was the biggest number reported in a single day then.

It eventually doubled over the next few days as more Singaporeans were returning home from overseas. The situation became more dire once local clusters like SingPost, a pre-school, and a nursing home were found, among others.

‘Circuit Breaker’ kicked in

Then, ‘Circuit Breaker’ officially kicked in on 7 Apr, as announced by PM Lee 4 days before it happened.

Singapore residents had to stay home as much as possible. Most workplaces were told to close, except essential services.

Social gatherings were so restricted, we weren’t even allowed to make social visits to someone out of our immediate household — unless it’s a family member who needs help with daily needs.

We could only leave our house for very specific reasons.

vox singapore social distancing

What caused the second wave of cases then?

Within the next few weeks after ‘Circuit Breaker’ started, Singapore’s daily cases gradually ballooned to hundreds, as dormitories housing migrant workers were identified as Covid-19 hotbeds.

Migrant worker dormitories in Singapore consist of a large number of people in a small amount of space.

vox singapore social distancingSource

This provides ideal conditions for transmitting the highly infectious coronavirus.

And the reason why the numbers are alarmingly high is because MOH is proactively testing all workers, not just symptomatic ones.

As of 24 Apr, MOH found around 50 clusters linked to migrant worker dormitories. The largest being S11 [email protected], with over 2,000 cases. Next in line is Sungei Tengah Lodge.

So, Vox was right when they mentioned Singapore’s drastic spike in cases, as charted in the graph below.

vox singapore social distancingSource

But given what we’ve just said above, we do wonder where they had gotten the impression that Singapore had relaxed social distancing measures somewhere in between.

We’ve reached out to Vox for comment, hopefully they’ll enlighten us ASAP.

How have netizens reacted?

Misunderstandings do happen, even to some of the biggest media companies in the world. It’s great to see Vox’s readers being very civil about it in the comments.

The tweet below is a testament to that. Instead of blindly calling Vox out, she took the time to explain how Vox was “misinformed”.


Another put it very bluntly, telling Vox to fact check their findings with “literally any single person who lives in Singapore.”


One more comment gave constructive criticism, on how they could have done better research before arriving at their hotly debated conclusion.


Vox hasn’t said anything yet

Singaporean readers are probably waiting to hear Vox’s side of the story. We are too. They’ve pretty much kept mum about the entire thing — judging by their non-acknowledgement of readers’ comments, and the fact that their social media posts are still up.

We can’t help but wonder if they’re aware. We’ll surely let you know if we ever do hear from them.

Meanwhile, Singapore, let’s keep calm and carry on in the battle against Covid-19.

Featured image adapted from Facebook and Vox via Twitter.