Singapore’s Recognition Of Success Of NZ Covid-19 Response Shows How Well We’re Really Doing

On Friday, Singapore made an announcement – New Zealanders heading there would no longer be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Instead, Kiwis will simply be given a Covid-19 test and assuming it’s negative, they’ll be allowed to go on their way.

That’s pretty huge – and shifts New Zealand from the clade of ‘low risk’ countries (such as Vietnam, Taiwan, and South Korea) where visitors to Singapore are allowed provided they undergo 14 days isolation.

To phrase it another way – Singapore has such confidence in New Zealand’s measures to fight Covid-19, that they think we’re doing a better job than the three Asian countries often cited as the ‘gold standard’ for controlling the disease.

I don’t think I’ve seen any media reports on this here in New Zealand – partially because it’s a recently breaking story, but also I suspect because it conflicts with the narrative that various portions of our media seem to wish to push: that the Government has been incompetent, lazy, if not outright flagrantly negligent over the past three-and-a-half months since the last Lockdown ended here.

To be fair and sure, it’s true that over-reliance upon the perceptions of foreign governments in assessing our own Covid-19 response is a bit of a fraught avenue. If you listen to Trump, after all, we’re currently in the middle of a massive disaster that means it’s “all over” for us. Which is fairly patently not the case.

Yet even though Singapore’s rather … different to us in many ways, and runs off a social and economic model that would be painfully inappropriate for New Zealand – one thing they’re generally very good at is the analysis of risk. They’ve had to be. That’s how they’ve managed to survive as a small island nation the size of Lake Taupo sandwiched between much larger and often semi-hostile neighbours. And also raised themselves from a small colonial backwater to a prominent international economic powerhouse.

They’ve made the decision to regard our people – and therefore, the fruits of our Covid-19 control campaign – as below even ‘low risk’. Lesser risk than the countries which went down the pathway of eschewing major lockdowns in favour of localized control and contact tracing. You know, what various domestic right-wing voices here are claiming we should (or should have been able to) have done.

And they made that decision AFTER the most recent round of Auckland-lockdown-lite had been in place already for a week and a half.

Don’t get me wrong – there are various areas in our Covid-19 response wherein it’s quite clear that somebody has dropped the ball. I hardly need to detail them here. And certainly, we’ve been incredibly lucky upon occasion, as well.

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But at a time when a number of voices are seemingly attempting to portray our Government as clueless and crazy when it comes to controlling the Corona virus, it’s useful to be able to apply a bit of perspective. And really compare the scale of our success – as well as our shortcomings – relative to other nations held to be ‘doing well’.

In this case, by making use of the perspective of another. After all – it is notably difficult for a subject to observe itself.


  1. ‘New social distancing rules in South Korea as Seoul cluster grows

    South Korea will roll out tougher social distancing guidelines to curb the spread of coronavirus nationwide as it battles a new outbreak of the disease spreading from the capital, Seoul, according to Reuters.

    The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 315 new domestic coronavirus infections as of midnight Friday, the latest in a string of triple digit increases in new local cases.

    South Korea used advanced contact tracing and widespread testing to contain its first outbreak of the novel coronavirus, but Asia’s fourth-largest economy has experienced persistent outbreaks in recent weeks, mostly in and around densely populated Seoul and the surrounding areas.

    The latest numbers take the country’s tally to 17,002 cases with 309 deaths.

    In Seoul and some surrounding cities, the government has reimposed second-tier social distancing rules, including restricting large gatherings, banning in-person church meetings while closing nightclubs, karaoke bars, buffets and cyber cafes.

    The same guidelines will be imposed on other areas across the country effective Sunday. However, in some areas with fewer infections, the guidelines would be recommended rather than obligatory.

    “If we don’t curb the spread (of the virus) in early stages, this will grow as a large-scale wave. To us, there is nothing more important than focusing on responding to Covid-19,” the health minister, Park Neung-hoo, told a briefing on Saturday.’

    Health authorities have categorised social distancing rules in three stages – stage 1 being the least intense and stage 3 the toughest, where schools and businesses are urged to close.

    “If we enhance the social distancing guidelines to the third stage, it is inevitable that they will take a toll on people’s daily lives and economy. We urge you to take the situation seriously,” the KCDC deputy director, Kwon Jun-wook, told a briefing.

    Updated at 7.44am BST

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