An alternative response to the covid-19 pandemic

Someone asked me how I would have responded differently to the covid-19 pandemic, in the context of what has happened in Singapore.

I will summarize the key points here. You can check the earlier posts to verify the accuracy of this summary.

At the initial stage, PM Lee said that the virus will kill 0.2% of the infected people. He was looking at the global statistics available at that time. I agreed with that view. I was not concerned about the virus.

I agreed with the government’s view that it was not necessary to wear a mask. I also agreed with the view that the limited stock of masks should be reserved for the health workers who were highly exposed to the risk of infection. The risk to the general public was negligible.

I changed my view about wearing of masks after a few weeks. I decided, out of common sense, that the mask can be washed and re-used and that the limited protection offered by the mask is better than no protection at all.

I would not consider it necessary to impose a rule to make it compulsory to wear a mask outdoors. The public should be advised to wear a mask when they are in crowded places. I would leave it to their common sense.

The government was alarmed when they found the large number of infected cases in the foreign worker dormitories. They were worried that the virus would spread in the general community.

They were also worried that the increase in cases would “overwhelm the healthcare system”.

I think there were also worried that it would upset their contact tracing strategy.

They decided to call the circuit breaker and closed down workplaces and business outlets.

I publicly expressed in strong terms that it was a bad judgment on the part of the ministers. The cost to the government in relief measures and to the livelihood of several hundred of thousand families was horrendous. It was not necessary at that time.

Most people agreed with the view of the government, but I did not. I did not get much support for my alternative view.

Here is my perspective:

a) I never agreed with the strenuous efforts made in collecting contact tracing details. I felt that it was a waste of time that could have been better spent on other useful activities. I do not mind contact tracing by asking the infected people who they had met within the past two weeks. It is not comprehensive, but it is adequate.

b) I preferred that hand sanitizers be provided at all public places – and be clearly visible to everybody. Instead, they were made available in only a few places and most were hidden away.

c) I also preferred that the temperature scanning should be carried out by a central agency, using proper equipment and trained personnel, rather than be left to the workplaces (which were unreliable and waste a lot of manpower).

After the first four weeks of the circuit breaker, the ministers decided to extend it by another four weeks. I declared them to be insane.

Here are my reasons:

a) Although a large number of new cases were detected each day, it was the result of large scale testing in the dormitories.

b) Most of these cases were mild. Most of the infected people did not need hospital treatment. They could be quarantined in the isolation facilities. They were not dropping like flies.

c) The hospital system was not overwhelmed, even after the infected cases went past 20,000 and later 30,000. The number of severe ill patients under intensive care remained below 30. It has since dropped below 10.

d) The death rate in Singapore was extremely low. It was only 2 per million of population (it has since increased to 4). It was nowhere alarming, compared to over 400 per million in some countries.

e) The ministers lost their perspective. They were so worried about 30 deaths from covid-19. They forget that 20,000 people die every year in Singapore from all causes.

f) It was quite clear by that time that the virus was mild in Singapore, probably due to our warm climate. It was nowhere as lethal as the virus in cold countries.

The ministers, with the support of the public agencies and the military, were efficient in to set up 20,000 beds in the isolation centers within a few weeks. I said that it was commendable but not exemplary. Many other countries were able to carry out similar undertakings with similar success.

I consider the ministers to be insane in extending the circuit breaker. They confirmed their insanity by relaxing the circuit breaker in three phases, which, in effect, is prolonging the circuit breaker.

Some people supported the extension of the circuit breaker by stating that the number of deaths would have increased, if it was not done.

We do not know if this will become so serious. We do not know how many lives would have been saved.

We should not overlook the lives that were lost due to the circuit breaker, from people who delayed their treatment for other serious illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease, and from people who suffered depression and other mental health issues.

One thing is clear. The circuit breaker cost $100 billion in taxpayer’s money to provide relief to the affected businesses and households. This is only partial relief. It does not compensate them adequately for the full extent of their losses.

Many small businesses will not survive. Many families will have their finances completely ravaged.

The $100 billion could have been put to better use to waive GST totally for 8 years or to provide $800 a month to every person above age 70 for 25 years.

In the light of the uncertainty, what would I have done?

I would wait before calling the circuit breaker. I would see how bad the situation would develop, before taking extreme measures that are costly in economic terms and potentially more damaging in health and lives.

I would not act in haste or in panic. I would carry out my risk evaluation in a calm manner.

In the light of uncertainty, I would monitor and adjust our strategy in the light of new evidence. I would not take the extreme measures which may turn out to be the worst option.

I declare the ministers to be insane and that the government had wasted the $100 billion and cost a lot of damage to businesses and households.


Tan Kin Lian





18 Responses to “An alternative response to the covid-19 pandemic”

  • Daft Singaporeans:

    Mr Tan, your article did not question why the Govt implemented a “Circuit Breaker” instead of raising the pandemic to DORSCON Red ?

    Technically we should be in RED many weeks ago.
    DORSCON Alert Level – RED Definition by MOH
    • Nature of Disease – Disease is severe AND is spreading widely

    • Impact on Daily Life – Major disruption eg. School closures, work from home order, significant number of deaths

    • Advice to public
    – Be socially responsible, if you are sick, stay at home
    – Maintain good personal hygiene
    – Look out for hearth advisories
    – Comply with control measures
    – Practice social distancing: avoid crowded areas

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  • Another PR exercise for erecti:

    Big deal, exiting CB next week.

    No lah! Practically the same as not exiting. Lots of restrictions imposed.

    These MFcukers just want to look good and score points for the coming erection that they have somewhat succeeded to contain the pandemic.

    Hello, we are 5 years old!

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  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    Tan Ahhhh!!! it is NOT their money WHAT!!!…but ok lah! some of your Points makes sense who did you CONsult Ivy??? the one with sense

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  • Costly CB:

    The CB has caused much damage to the economy and financial hardship to many.
    Especially the poor and needy and the jobless or those on no pay leave since Jan 2020.Many small business will not survive and more jobs will be lost soon.
    The support given is so slow and inadequate(not even 10% of their last pay for some of them),especially to those badly hit…they rather go out to work or open for business.

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  • Foo:

    Can TKL declare that the ministers be sent to IMH for observation?

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  • Targeted help please:

    $99B of hard earned reserve build by the sweat of the PG and MG will be spend.

    OK if it helps to save Business, jobs and lives and those who badly need it…
    For the poor and needy and those out of jobs or on no pay leave since 2020.

    Should not be spend on companies and those who does not need it…
    Need more targeted and meaningful support than across the board.

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  • TKL's doppelganger Tan Kim Lan:

    So what happen to your ‘walk-thru’ sanitizer tunnel idea? Now proven not safe by health authority. AND your herd immunity now Sweden in deep shits. Not forgetting your failed presidential disservice done to fellow Singaporeans.

    You are like Tang Li, DANGEROUS IBs that slowly convert readers’ thinking. Only Tang Li writes his own. I don’t think you write yours based on your usual ‘silly’ stuffs.

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  • TKL's doppelganger Tan Kim Lan:

    BTW, Tan Kin Lian, your AMANUENSIS really sucks! How much you pay him/her? Many writers/commenters here are far superior than your craps (even Paid for). So don’t throw away your money like the Pred. election and gets forfeited. Donate to your poor countrymen instead.

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  • trublu:

    we shud be humble and admit the mistakes we committed n not trying to cover tracks ALL THE TIME.


    ELSE,better go back and learn ABC.

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  • Why r u so foolish?:

    Again & again & again…. all your illogical & irrational articles on this website just dont make any sense at all.
    Commonsense…? None

    Luckily, S’poreans are wise enough & use our commonsense not to vote U as president.
    Surely, even if you’r SG president, U cant even handle those ‘insane’ ministers!!

    U wrote “$100 billion could have been put to better use to waive GST totally for 8 years or to provide $800 a month to….”

    Totally unbelievable, you, a former CEO of Ntuc Income, can write such foolish nonsense !
    Think? No?

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  • NotMyProblem:

    @Mr. Tan; no need for any further explanation. Soon Circuit breaker will be lifted, PAP going to declare victory over Covid-19. Take your $700 and pay whatever bills you need to pay.

    PAP will be sending you the NDP fun pack and flag. Fly your flag and enjoy the happy moment. Forget about the SARS-Cov-2, wear your mask for awhile more.

    Next prepare for the general election in the midst of the pandemic.

    After GE, prepare to pay back what you have taken. No, not $700, more, a lot more. Don’t forget to add in the bill for Foreign Workers’ temporary dorms and 3-meals, and bonuses for the ministers for jobs well done.

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  • MarBowling:

    This is “President” Tan Golden Chain giving his Words of Wisdom on HOW he would have handled and dealt with Covid 19. He said his WAY OF DOING THINGS is very MUCH DIFFERENT from those INSANE PAPIGS World Class Ministers in the TRASH FORCE appointed to Handle and Deal with Covid 19, and therefore maybe able to save or NOT SPEND the $100 billions of taxpayers’ hard earned money. What do you think?

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  • WakeupSG:

    Six countries, six charts, and one important takeaway.
    Hassan Vally, The Conversation
    May 02, 2020 · 11:30 pm

    Singapore is a lesson on why you can’t ever relax when it comes to coronavirus. It was hailed as an early success story in bringing the virus to heel, through extensive testing, effective contact tracing and strict quarantining, with no need for a full lockdown.

    But the virus has bounced back. Infection clusters originating among migrant workers has prompted tighter restrictions. The R(eff) currently sits at around two, and Singapore still has a lot of work to do to bring it down.

    And our final example, Singapore, adds an important coda: the situation can change rapidly, and there is no room for complacency.


    As TWC2 warned in March and in the article The risks from packing them in, the crowded conditions in dorm rooms make virus transmission particularly easy. We repeatedly urged a massive reduction in density by moving workers out into alternative accommodation, but there’s no need to belabour the point here, except to say that while there has been some dispersal, only 7,000 workers have been moved out — a figure given by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo a few days ago. This is way too few considering that there are about 200,000 workers in purpose-built dormitories and perhaps 100,000 more in other dorms.

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  • Teo CB Josephina:

    Even an inferior Self -praising world highest overpaid 4g need not be accountable for any failures because there is no check on them allowed.

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  • Another hindsight experts:

    This is a new virus. If at the beginning everyone knew that this virus is so contagious as to spread globally in less than 4 months and understand what it means by ‘silent spread’, where carriers show no symptoms or mild symptoms, then this person will be able to save the world.
    After months into the pandemic, a lot of “hindsight” experts are surfacing now – only releasing data after people have uncovered them.
    Just look at countries which have taken a different approach to deal with the coronavirus.
    Take Sweden for example. There is no lockdown and what was the outcome? Heavy fatalities. If you say hot climates with low fatalities, look at Brazil, Ecuador or Colombia. They are near the equator should have low fatalities but it wasn’t so.
    This is a new virus. It is only until now we understand how it spread.
    There are epidemiologists around the world. If they can understand the nature of the virus at the beginning, then the world would have an uniform approach to tackle the virus.
    Remember the governments around the world have to pour in trillions of dollars to save the world from sliding into another Great Depression. Are they dumb?

    So there are many uncertainties at the point of time. Imposing lockdown is the most appropriate action. And we don’t have enough masks. Protecting the front line workers first is the correct action also.

    So how? Should we follow Sweden approach’s and not have a lockdown?
    Probably at our age, we will be the casualties. No chance to argue here anymore.
    We would save billions of dollars but many lives will be lost.

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  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    TKL's doppelganger Tan Kim Lan:
    So what happen to your ‘walk-thru’ sanitizer tunnel idea? Now proven not safe by health authority. AND your herd immunity now Sweden in deep shits. Not forgetting your failed presidential disservice done to fellow Singaporeans.

    You are like Tang Li, DANGEROUS IBs that slowly convert readers’ thinking. Only Tang Li writes his own. I don’t think you write yours based on your usual ‘silly’ stuffs.

    Bro, he needs a speechwriter since he realized he writes too MUCH Shit…many around if PAID, unlike the man who CON-YOU who had his wife to vet and correct his speeches…TanAhhh!!!’s lady friend Ivy will willingly do it for FREE leh!!!…she BACKED the wrong Horse during the PE and now probably backing a Donkey for future elections???

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  • Yoda:

    TKL, don’t you know that in 2015, legislation was introduced specifically to deal with Foreign Workers Dormitories:

    17. One example is that operators must develop quarantine plans, in the event of an infectious disease outbreak, and provide sufficient sick bay facilities, based on guidelines set by the Ministry of Health.


    If this was totally forgotten, what is there to say?

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  • Covid Pandemic Fight:

    Spending almost $100B towards Covid Pandemic Fight gets a good report from WHO adviser!

    Hi Mr Tan, is he insane or what?

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