People now more willing to follow safe management measures: Survey
Poll also reveals many expected pandemic to end by now and are confident of how it is managed
The pandemic has gone on longer than most people anticipated, but many are more willing to follow safe management measures than a year ago, a new poll has revealed.
The survey of 1,000 people aged 16 and above noted that almost 80 per cent felt the pandemic would have ended by now.
It also found a high level of confidence in Singapore's handling of the outbreak, with 24 per cent strongly agreeing that it has the pandemic under control, while 53 per cent somewhat agreed.
The remaining 23 per cent either indicated a neutral response or disagreed with this sentiment.
But rather than being complacent, 62 per cent said they are more likely to wear their mask properly now than during the circuit breaker last year.
Similarly, 54 per cent are more likely to observe a 1m safe distance from others now than a year ago, while 34 per cent said there is no change in their likelihood of doing this.
The poll, commissioned by The Straits Times (ST) and carried out by Milieu Insight from March 25 to March 29 this year, also noted that 35 per cent said they are now more likely to see a doctor for only mild symptoms, while 44 per cent said there is no change in their likelihood of doing so.
The notion that safe management measures are excessive and should be relaxed was rejected by 39 per cent, while 24 per cent agreed.
This was in contrast to a survey conducted by ST last August, which found that 44 per cent of people were getting tired of following safety measures.
Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, vice-dean of global health and programme leader of infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, pointed out that last August, there was no obvious end in sight for safe management measures.
But with vaccines now being rolled out, people can more clearly see that restrictions will likely be relaxed in the near future.
He added that pandemic fatigue is more likely to occur based on cultural factors, uncertainty and multiple episodes of stepping up or down of restrictions.
But since the circuit breaker, Singapore has generally not had the need to ramp up safe management measures and instead has progressively relaxed them.
Professor Josip Car, director of the Centre for Population Health Sciences at Nanyang Technological University's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, called the recent survey results "a big win for Singapore".
He said: "It shows that the coordinated communications around the virus and safe management measures have had a successful impact on people.
"While there have been elements of public criticism, which is expected and necessary to have in good governance, those statistics reflect the understanding and cooperation of the people towards the measures laid out."
Prof Car said it might be worth examining the concerns of the 23 per cent who did not feel Singapore has the pandemic under control.
"It also shows there are no laurels to rest on - having a pandemic 'under control' is quite different from exiting it," he said.
"I anticipate that to be the next step. People would be understandably looking towards a clear pandemic exit strategy for Singapore."
1 in 3 people here says his mental well-being has worsened: Poll
About one in three people in Singapore feels mental well-being has worsened since the circuit breaker kicked in a year ago, a survey of 1,000 people has shown.
Mental health has been under the spotlight since the pandemic started and the survey, commissioned by The Straits Times and conducted by online market research firm Milieu Insight, found that 31 per cent reported their mental well-being had "somewhat worsened".
Five per cent said it had deteriorated "much more".
In October last year, the Government convened a Covid-19 Mental Wellness Taskforce in response to the needs arising from the pandemic.
In March this year, it was announced that the task force would be transformed into an inter-agency platform to oversee mental health and well-being efforts beyond the pandemic.
The head of the task force, Professor Chua Hong Choon, declined to comment specifically on the finding in which 36 per cent of respondents in the survey acknowledged their mental well-being had declined.
But he said that generally, there were several reasons why people's well-being may have worsened since the circuit breaker.
"Humans are social animals, and the circuit breaker heightened our loss of social connectedness, affecting people of all ages," said Prof Chua, who is also deputy group chief executive officer (clinical) of the National Healthcare Group.
He said working adults may have seen relationships with colleagues fray and stress rise due to work from home arrangements.
"The social aspect of work was lost, teams were not able to bond and people were stressed out by technical issues at home," said Prof Chua.
Seniors could have experienced a sense of isolation because extended family members were unable to visit and they could not meet their friends regularly.
"The disruption to our economy also affected the livelihoods and career opportunities of many residents, although timely support by the Government has helped to cushion the impact," he added.
While the task force had previously presented plans to help tackle the issue, Prof Chua said there were things people could do to help one another.
In addition to looking out for one another's well-being, people could consider volunteering or participating in community mental health events to learn more about mental health issues, and encourage others to do so as well, said Prof Chua.
He added: "In our daily lives, let's empathise and appreciate that many people are going through challenging periods. Be more understanding if there are delays or things don't go as smoothly as before. Be kinder, more thoughtful, more patient."
Her childhood interest in fixing computers now a blessing to the poor
What started as a two-hour stint as a volunteer has now gone on for a year - and Ms Lim May-Ann has no plans to stop.
During the circuit breaker last year, Ms Lim, 40, chanced upon a Facebook post that asked for help in refurbishing and repairing laptops for low-income families.
Without hesitation, she approached the non-profit group behind the post - Engineering Good.
Ms Lim's father used to run Enable 2000, a volunteer group that refurbished desktop computers for people with disabilities.
"Instead of playing with regular toys as a kid, I would play with screwdrivers. I also watched and learnt at my dad's workshop when I was older," said Ms Lim.
"(Engineering Good's initiative) merged my desire to do something and my ability to do it, so I volunteered."
Ms Lim was told to head to Engineering Good's office for a session, which she thought would last just two hours. It did not.
Struck by just how many families needed laptops and how many of the devices needed repair, Ms Lim stayed for six hours that day.
She continued to help out in the weeks ahead, repairing at least 100 laptops in two months during the circuit breaker.
"I stopped counting after that," she said.
COMPUTERS AGAINST COVID
This was all part of Engineering Good's Computers Against Covid initiative, which involved collecting, repairing and distributing old laptops to those who cannot afford one of their own.
The initiative kicked off with about five active volunteers and the number has since grown to about 200, said Ms Lim.
Ms Lim is now head of digital literacy programmes and oversees Engineering Good's Building Digitally Inclusive Communities project.
The project aims to install blockwide Internet access at broadband speeds for rental flats here by mounting multiple access points in common corridors, as part of the group's wider strategy for digital inclusion.
As managing director of research consultancy TRPC as well as executive director of the Asia Cloud Computing Association, Ms Lim used to travel for two weeks every month.
But Covid-19 and the circuit breaker meant that she spent more time at home, allowing her to serve the community, she said.
Ms Lim now spends about four hours a week volunteering for Engineering Good.
"It's really great working with people who care, are like-minded, and have the same quirky sense of humour. I'll be here a while," she said.