The U.K. and Switzerland are effectively not trying to combat the coronavirus and cases there are likely to surge in the coming weeks, a Singapore minister said.
“One concern we have with cases such as U.K. and Switzerland isn’t just about the numbers. It is that these countries have abandoned any measure to contain or restrain the virus,” Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong said at a press briefing Sunday as the island republic imposed a two-week self-isolation for arrivals from the two countries. “If there’s no attempt to contain, we estimate the number of cases in these countries to rise significantly in the coming days and weeks.”
Deaths from Covid-19 in the U.K. doubled to 21 on Saturday, while cases surged 43% to 1,140, an increase the government had not anticipated, reports said.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has been criticized for not following other countries by shutting down schools and banning large gatherings to stop the spread of the disease. The U.K. response has instead centered on personal hygiene, self-isolation of those who think they are sick, and the tracing and testing of those confirmed to have the disease.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said his country’s strategy was working, and had slowed the virus’s rate of increase. He spoke on Sky News to defend Johnson’s approach as the government prepares to impose further restrictions on everyday activities.
Switzerland has attempted to curb the virus by closing schools and banning events with more than 100 people until mid-April. The country’s priority now is to increase testing and encourage citizens to protect themselves, Switzerland’s President Simonetta Sommaruga said in an interview with SonntagsZeitung.
Elsewhere in Europe, draconian measures are starting to be rolled out as governments tightened border controls to check the spread of the virus.
Germany will close its borders with France, Switzerland and Austria on Monday at 8 a.m. local time, though goods and commuter traffic will still be allowed to flow, various media reported. Austria banned gatherings of more than five people and said it will close restaurants from Tuesday, while France announced reductions on domestic transport links by air, rail and bus, a day after closing restaurants, cafes and non-essential stores. That’s after Italy and Spain went into lockdown and many other governments have either already followed suit or are poised to.
Singapore, by contrast, was one of the first countries to imposed strict restrictions on those with a travel history to mainland China and carried out detailed contact tracing on anyone who tested positive. The island nation revoked the work permit of some foreigners caught at their places of employment during a mandatory leave-of-absence period, and repatriated them.
In addition to the U.K. and Switzerland, the city-state also added arrivals from Japan and most of Southeast Asia to the list of countries that require a two-week self-isolation — and that came as the country said Sunday it added 14 new coronavirus cases, the most in one day.