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3rd Place Submission: Was a lockdown the best compromise?

Author: Pua Yen Ting


This article is being featured as the 2nd Runner Up in SEIC Opinionated Piece Competition 2021. Participants were tasked to comment about the following question: "The imposition of lockdowns during the pandemic was the best compromise between public health and the economy".


About a year ago, Singapore went into a 2-month lockdown – have we been better than we were before? We’ve seen the number of cases falling from 100 a day to almost none in the community. Public health seemed to have improved by leaps, while the economy is slowly recovering too. Rather than the lockdowns alone, however, I believe it is merely a necessary yet insufficient approach. The best compromise is when the governments internationally respond more efficiently with effective internal measures too.


As we piece the picture of many losing their jobs and the devastating impact on a global scale, we see that countries who found a balance between public health and the economy managed to impose strict measures where the vast majority have complied with. Though the cases are not completely ridden, it allowed the country to return to a “new normal". Countries like Thailand have seen a 5% contraction in the economy in 2020 as they did not impose a lockdown, but rather restrictive measures (World Bank, 2020). This does not help to prevent the spread of Covid-19 since people are still in contact with each other. Lockdown therefore is essential. But is that the only best compromise?


In many countries such as China and New Zealand, they rapidly shut down the borders. But when the restrictions were lifted, there weren't strong measures after which led to a rise in cases again. What are they doing differently? Let us look at Vietnam which has 2.8% projected growth (World Bank, 2020). Swift lockdown measures following the outbreak with tough measures were imposed. Alongside announcement channels to the people which gained their support, Vietnam managed to contain the virus successfully. With these distinctive measures, it acts as a nuance towards the economic conditions and health. The Vietnam government’s efforts in ramping up extensive contract tracing, isolation and more allowed them to report zero cases.


Though Vietnam is set to recover, they still suffer from international trade and tourism. This backs up the point that the lockdown alone isn’t the best compromise, since it has to be a collective effort with the other countries gaining stability as well. As most countries do rely on international trade and tourism, it makes it hard to find the balance between public health and the economy. The economy will be set to suffer, but it can be lessened if countries undertook the same measures globally.


In the eyes of the ordinary public, we want to keep our livelihood and remain healthy. If the government is able to capitalise on that and impose strict measures when the virus first started, it would have made the country ‘virus-free’. Now, while the government imposes a lockdown, other regulations and nudges should be established to ensure the people follow their plans. When the country is set to recover internally, all that is left is for them to wait for the neighbouring countries to adopt similar yet distinctive measures to target Covid-19. With that, we will reach a new normal globally.


References


1. World Bank. (October 6, 2020). The World Bank in Vietnam: Overview. Retrieved from:

https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/vietnam/overview


2. World Bank. (June 30, 2020). Thailand Economic Monitor June 2020: Thailand in the Time of COVID-19. Retrieved from:

https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/thailand/publication/thailand-economic-monitor-june-2020-thailand-in-the-time-of-covid-19

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