Defying the odds, 102-year-old Singaporean recovers from Covid-19 – dpa international

Sign on a doorway at Kuala Lumpur pharmacy (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — A 102-year-old woman became Singapore’s oldest Covid-19 survivor on Friday, joining a handful of centenarians worldwide who have beaten the disease. After Yap Lay Hong returned to the Lee Ah Mooi Old Age Home after being discharged from Tan Tock Seng Hospital, the home said on Facebook: “We welcome home our residents who fought hard to recover and overcome [Covid-19].” Yap Lay Hong’s recovery put her among the almost 1,300 people in Singapore to have recovered from Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. Though centenarians in Britain, Italy and the Netherlands have made headlines after surviving Covid-19, worldwide fatality data suggest that the elderly are highly-vulnerable to the disease, making up the bulk of the 230,000+ recorded deaths.

Covid-19 spurs Singapore’s biggest unemployment jump since SARS – dpa international

Burmese migrant workers in Singapore's Peninsular Plaza, a popular meeting point for workers from Myanmar who live in the city-state (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Pandemic-stricken Singapore has seen its steepest drop in employment since the Severe Acute Respiratory System (SARS) outbreak of 2002-3. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Manpower announced that 19,900 jobs were shed during the first quarter of 2020, many of them in “consumer-facing food & beverage services and retail trade, and tourism-dependent accommodation,” which the ministry stated were among the sectors “most severely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.” The job losses exceed those seen during the global financial crisis of 2008-9, when trade and investment-dependent Singapore was the first East or South-East Asian country to fall into recession. Singapore has the world’s fourth-highest gross domestic product per capita, according to International Monetary Fund rankings, and its overall unemployment rate remains a low 2.4 per cent.

Singapore’s Covid-19 tests hint at huge number of migrant cases – dpa international

Inside Singapore General Hospital (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said on Monday that 21,000 foreign workers have been tested for the new coronavirus since the start of the outbreak. Of that total of 21,000, Ministry of Health statistics released on Sunday showed 11,419 positive test results, numbers that suggest half the roughly 320,000 workers, many of who sleep 10-20 to a room in crowded dormitories, could be infected.  The 5.8 million-population city-state had confirmed 14,423 cases of Covid-19 by Monday afternoon, meaning that around 80 per cent of the city-state’s cases are among foreign workers who live in the dormitories. Of Monday’s 799 new cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, “the vast majority” were in the dormitories, according to the Ministry of Health. Singapore had just 1,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases at the start of April but imposed a lockdown, or “circuit breaker,” on April 7 after case numbers surged in the dormitories.

Surge in migrant worker Covid-19 cases continues as Singapore’s total tops 10,000 – dpa international

Outside Lucky Plaza in Singapore, a meeting place for Filipino workers living in the city-state (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Ministry of Health reported 1,016 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, taking the national total to 10,141. All but 15 of the new cases were described by the ministry as “work permit holders residing in foreign worker dormitories.” Almost all cases reported during April have been in the dormitories: purpose-built residences where around 300,000 of Singapore’s 1.4 million foreign workers live. Wednesday is the third day in succession that Singapore has confirmed over a thousand new cases.

Singapore extends lockdown by one month as Covid-19 cases top 9,000 – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — After Singapore’s cases of coronavirus soared by 1,111 on Tuesday to 9,125, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the country’s lockdown will be extended to June 1. “This short-term pain is to stamp out the virus,” Lee said during a televised address to the nation. “We cannot afford to be complacent,” Lee said, asking Singaporeans to “hunker down.” After a surge since late March of cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus pandemic, Singapore imposed an effective lockdown on April 7 – measures the government labelled a “circuit breaker” aimed at stopping the spread of the disease. Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced earlier on Tuesday that all but 20 of the 1,111 new cases are foreign work permit holders staying in dozens of purpose-built dormitories that house migrants from across Asia.

Huge jump puts Singapore’s Covid-19 caseload ahead of neighbours – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Health Ministry confirmed 1,426 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday, by far the biggest daily increase seen in the country. The spike takes Singapore’s caseload to 8,014, meaning the city-state, which has a population of 5.8 million, has reported more incidences of Covid-19 – the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus – than any other country in Southeast Asia. Indonesia, home to an estimated 270 million people, had reported 6,760 cases by Monday evening, while the Philippines, which has a population of over 100 million, had confirmed 6,459 cases by Monday afternoon. The disparity in numbers likely reflects relatively-widespread Covid-19 testing in Singapore, which is by far the wealthiest country per capita in the region. 

New daily record sees Covid-19 cases near 6,000 in Singapore – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s Ministry of Health on Saturday announced a daily high of 942 cases of Covid-19, the sometimes-fatal respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, pushing the city-state’s total to 5,992.  In a brief statement, Singapore’s Ministry of Health said that the “vast majority” of the new cases announced on Saturday are foreign workers living in state-approved dormitories. “We must expect to see more dorm cases for a while longer,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned on Saturday. “Fortunately, the vast majority of the cases are mild, because the workers are young,” Lee said. Though it had banned most incoming travel and later forced bars and restaurants to close, Singapore resisted imposing the strict lockdowns seen in neighbouring Malaysia and the Philippines until case numbers in the dormitories started to climb, prompting the government to impose a “circuit breaker” on April 7.

Asia’s economic growth to halt for first time since 1960s – dpa international

Evening traffic in Kuala Lumpur before the pandemic (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — The International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes Asia’s fast-growing economies will “come to a standstill” due to the coronavirus pandemic, faring worse than during the 2008-9 global financial crisis or the 1997-98 Asian crash. The region will experience zero growth for the first time since the 1960s, said Chang Yong Rhee, director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, who forecast that the economic impact of the pandemic will be “severe, across the board, and unprecedented.” Speaking during a press conference live-streamed from Washington, Rhee said Asia faces “a crisis like no other” due to the pandemic, which has killed over 136,000 people worldwide and prompted governments to impose lockdowns that have hampered commerce. “Containment measures are severely affecting economies,” Rhee said.

Singapore’s migrant workers bear brunt of Covid-19 spike – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday lauded foreign workers who have borne the brunt of a surge of cases of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. Lee said Singapore is “grateful” for the efforts of the workers – who hail from less wealthy Asian neighbours such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar – for helping to build much of the city-state’s infrastructure, according to Lee. “Some man midnight shifts in our factories. Others take care of our sick and elderly in hospitals and nursing homes. Hundreds of thousands of Singapore households depend on domestic workers from neighbouring countries,” Lee said.

Migrant workers suffer as Malaysia and Singapore combat Covid-19 – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — The wealthiest and third-wealthiest countries in South-East Asia, Singapore and Malaysia respectively, depend on millions of immigrants to fill low-wage jobs in agriculture, construction, domestic help and restaurants. This critical but often neglected section of society – nearly one and a half million people in Singapore and perhaps twice as many in Malaysia – has been thrust into the spotlight by the coronavirus pandemic. The past two weeks have seen a surge in Covid-19 cases across 43 government-sanctioned dormitories that house around 200,000 of Singapore’s migrant workers. Of Singapore’s record 386 new cases announced on Monday night, the “majority are Work Permit holders in the dormitories,” according to the Ministry of Health. Altogether around a third of the city-state’s 2,918 cases have been linked to the residences, where workers from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal and elsewhere often sleep 10-20 to a room.