Published: February 9, 2021
A British author recently argued that early border controls cannot explain the low coronavirus case numbers in Singapore, as Singapore “only closed its borders to tourists in late March”. But this is not correct: with the exception of North Korea, Singapore was in fact the first country in the world to close its borders to all travelers from China, and it did so already in January. Singapore also applied, at an early stage, strict screening measures to all travelers entering the country.
In fact, the vast majority of Singapore’s covid cases occurred in its migrant workers, which “have essentially been quarantined from the rest of the population since cases exploded in April.”
As SPR previously noted, early border controls were by far the most important measure against the spread of covid, explaining why most islands and many direct neighbors of China managed to keep the coronavirus out. In addition to early border controls, rapid identification of individual cases, and isolation not at home, but in dedicated facilities (e.g. empty hotels), were also crucial. In contrast, masks and delayed reactive measures, including lockdowns and ‘contact tracing’, were not effective.