After initial coronavirus success, Singapore gets put on lockdown

As of Saturday, the country confirmed 2,299 cases and eight deaths

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Singapore was one of the first countries to get a handle on the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, but now the island is on lockdown.

The city-state with a population of roughly 6 million people recorded its first case on Jan. 23 when a 66-year-old man who had traveled into the city from Wuhan tested positive.

The number of confirmed cases spiked quickly after, and the country became one of the world's first major hotspots until mid-February, when the number of recovered patients in the city-state was outpacing new ones.

News outlets all over the world pointed to Singapore as one of the few places in the world able to quickly and effectively stop the spread of the virus.

In a March 19 article published by global news outlet The Conversation titled, "Why Singapore’s coronavirus response worked – and what we can all learn," Dale Fisher, chair of infection control at the National University Hospital of Singapore, praised Singapore's COVID-19 response as a "model" for the world.

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The article explains how Singapore was ready to defeat the virus when the world first became aware of its spread. The National Public Health Laboratory, set up after SARS, was prepared to fast-track testing, using advanced diagnostics and newly developed COVID-19 test kits.

Response efforts mentioned in the article include: mass testing, putting COVID-19 patients in hospitals, keeping those who were in contact with a patient in quarantine, efforts by the media and government to spread awareness about social distancing, allowing life to go on as normal with mass testing and organized leadership.

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These efforts did help to contain the virus in Singapore for about two months, but that changed in early March after 47 cases were tracked to a Feb.15 dinner gathering. In mid-March, the country confirmed about 400 cases and no deaths. As of Saturday, the country confirmed 2,299 cases and eight deaths.

The increasing numbers highlight how COVID-19 can spread even after initial success in containing the virus if people do not practice proper safety precautions as countries consider what the future will look like when residents emerge from local shutdowns and return to work.

The country has since been put on lockdown, closing most workplaces, schools and private and public gatherings.

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"We have decided that instead of tightening incrementally over the next few weeks, we should make a decisive move now, to preempt escalating infections," Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an April 3 address.

Singapore's government has also implemented punishments for violating rules that prohibit social gatherings, including jail time and fines of up to $7,000, according to Time magazine.

About 20,000 migrant workers in the country are currently in quarantine in their dormitories after officials confirmed a rising number of cases among the workers who live in close quarters. The group has seen about 90 confirmed cases as of April 6.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.