Singapore Calls for Elections Despite Covid Pandemic

Singapore Calls for Elections Despite Covid Pandemic

Singapore Calls for Elections Despite Covid Pandemic

Singapore Calls for Elections Despite Covid Pandemic

BANGKOK — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore announced on Tuesday that the city-state would hold the first elections in Southeast Asia since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The elections are scheduled for July 10, and Parliament was dissolved on Tuesday to begin the electoral process.

In a televised speech Tuesday, Mr. Lee acknowledged the pandemic’s devastating effect on a country that is, more than most, dependent on a globalized world for its economic security.

“A long struggle lies ahead,” Mr. Lee said. “Singapore has not yet felt the full economic fallout from Covid-19, but it is coming.”

Unemployment will go up, Mr. Lee cautioned, adding that “external uncertainties,” such as the coming American elections and simmering tensions between the United States and China, further complicated the outlook for Singapore.

“To overcome these challenges, we must stand completely united as one people,” Mr. Lee said. “An election now, when things are relatively stable, will clear the decks and give the new government a fresh five-year mandate.”

Elections have to be held by April 2021, and some opposition lawmakers have advised against conducting them while pandemic regulations make normal campaigning impossible. Singapore has criminalized the breaching of its strict social-distancing measures.

Shaking hands will not be allowed during the nine-day campaign period, nor will political rallies, according to the Singaporean electoral authority.

“There is no need to rush into organizing one so soon, especially as the country continues to record hundreds of new daily coronavirus cases,” Teddy Baguilat Jr., the executive director of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights and a former Philippine member of Parliament, said in a statement.

In the early months of the pandemic, Singapore successfully stifled most local transmission through a meticulous contact-tracing program. But the coronavirus made its way into dormitories where hundreds of thousands of foreign workers live in communal quarters. As of Tuesday, the country had recorded more than 42,400 cases of the coronavirus, most within the foreign worker community.

Singaporean leaders point out that the country has suffered only 26 deaths and that the relatively high caseload is more a function of comprehensive testing than of runaway transmission. Most cases are asymptomatic or very mild.

In his speech on Tuesday, Mr. Lee noted that there was only one patient currently in intensive care. The rate of new cases has declined in recent days, and Singapore has relaxed some of its lockdown measures.

  • Updated June 22, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

Nevertheless, the pandemic has weighed heavily on the country, which is disproportionately reliant on the international networks that the coronavirus has disrupted. Its economy could contract by 5.8 percent this year, according to a survey by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The People’s Action Party — co-founded by Mr. Lee’s father, Lee Kuan Yew, who was prime minister from 1959 to 1990 — has governed Singapore since before it separated from Malaysia to become an independent nation in 1965. It is expected to win the coming elections, as well.

Mr. Lee, 68, has been prime minister since 2004 and has had cancer twice.

“This general election,” he said, “will be like no other that we have experienced.”

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