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Business Insights – what we can learn from Singapore’s plan for a new normal

I’m here with insights for Australian businesses on 8 July 2021.

As Sydney and parts of NSW have their lockdown extended for another week, I know many people are questioning when will this yo-yoing of extreme measures by Australian state and territory governments will end.

In this briefing, I’m looking forward to consider how Australia might move towards normal business trading conditions (without lockdowns!) We’re seeing in the global news that Singapore, which has mostly followed a zero transmission model like Australia, is now planning a path forward that will involve “learning to live with Covid-19”.

The reason I want to look at what Singapore have planned is because it might give business coaches (and the business owners we advise) an idea of what a similar approach could mean for Australia and Australian businesses in particular.

The Singapore government’s Covid-19 task force – which includes their Trade and Industry Minister – is planning to move towards a more normal way of life, one where they can manage the virus without lockdowns.

Singapore’s new approach addresses these key points for their exit strategy:

  • How they plan to manage the virus
  • How they’re changing their mindset towards the virus
  • When and how they will do testing
  • How they’ll open borders

 

How Singapore is adjusting their view of (the threat of) the virus

The Singaporean task force acknowledges that Covid-19 may never go away, and may become endemic, like influenza. By thinking of Covid-19 like influenza, the task force suggests that the virus can be viewed as less threatening and more manageable.

In doing so, they can borrow from the influenza-management playbook:

  • Take appropriate precautions to avoid contracting the virus, such as personal hygiene practices and getting vaccinated;
  • To reduce transmissions, people are encouraged to isolate if they do have the virus and recover at home, or stay home if they are feeling unwell, just as they would if they had the flu or chickenpox.
  • Focus reporting only on hospitalised cases (a shift away from reporting every case), in the same way that they monitor influenza.

This approach will see Singapore transition over the next 12-24 months as they move from current the conditions to a model of accepting, managing and living with Covid.

What this would mean for Australian businesses and Tenfold business coaching clients

If Australia adopts a similar position to viewing and managing Covid (and there was talk of this in the federal government announcement last Friday), the main advantage would be that people will be able to resume normal day to day lives.

For businesses, this model will provide assurance that their operations can continue, free from the disruptions of restrictions, circuit-breakers and lockdowns. I know that every business owner – including those businesses that our coaches mentor and advise – would welcome this assurance.

 

How Singapore plans to transition to a new Covid normal

 

Vaccinations

Singapore’s plan for returning to a more normal way of life relies on a high level of vaccinations.

Their target is to have two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated (both doses) by 9 August. They are reported to be on track: over one-third of the population was fully vaccinated by the end of June, with plans to speed up the current process. Both Pfizer and Moderna are available, with people having a choice of vaccine.

Vaccines reduce risk of infection and transmission, as well as reducing the effects of the virus when it is contracted. Israel – which currently has the world’s highest vaccination rate – has studies that show vaccines significantly reduce the infection rate and also prevent severe symptoms. Another smaller assessment in Singapore found some infected vaccinated people had either no or mild symptoms.

The lessening of symptoms reduces the need hospitalisation and relieves the pressure on the public health system.

What this would mean for Australian businesses

In Australia, the concerns that the public health system can’t handle high levels of Covid-19 hospitalisations have been a primary driving force of the state governments’ decisions to impose restrictions and lockdowns. As Australia’s vaccination program rolls out, we could expect a similar easing in public health directions.

Higher vaccination levels will also help people feel more confident (and less anxious) about the spread of the virus and its impact. For business owners, this could mean more employees returning to the workplace and more consistent staffing levels and attendance rates.

As we have seen with the past year, remote working has taken a toll on some businesses and employees. In our role as business mentors, each Tenfold business coach has collaborated with our clients to minimise this impact. However we know that in the wide business environment, many businesses have struggled with lower productivity and an additional burden to maintain a positive team culture across a disconnected remote workforce. These challenges could become a thing of the past with high vaccination levels.

 

Testing

The current testing policy in Singapore is similar to Australia’s with high levels of testing and contract tracing. Going forward in Singapore, the plan is for rigorous testing to continue at borders but testing within their borders would ease.

They are also looking to introduce faster and easier testing that can be done as self-tests and in a wider range of places, such as pharmacies and workplaces.

What this would mean for Tenfold clients

Testing that is faster and more widely available, with faster results will reduce the downtime of employees who currently have to isolate while they wait for the outcome of their test. It would also reduce the downtime of any workmates who are deemed to be close contacts and who also need to be tested and isolate.

Again, this would improve productivity (and also reduce anxiety, which can be a drain on productivity and positivity).

 

Borders

International travel with Singapore will resume with countries that have also controlled the virus and are operating in Covid-normal. Vaccination certificates will be used to recognise safe travellers, and people may be exempted from quarantine if their pre-departure Covid test is negative at the time they arrive.

What this would mean for Tenfold clients

Opening the borders will have an impact upon many of your businesses. The current labour shortage we’re seeing – and many of you are experiencing as you look to recruit – is contributed to by the lack of immigrants coming to Australia. As I’ve written about before, Australia’s economic growth depends heavily on immigration for employees, housing demand, consumers (think international students). Immigration is the rising tide that lifts all boats, so I would see opening the borders as a turning point on the road to normalising the demand for jobs.

 

Bringing it all together

From my research into the approach recommended by Singapore’s task force, it’s clear that this model balances public health with public and economic assurance for a positive future. The roadmap is a pragmatic path to a future where individuals can go about their normal lives (with some sensible and easy precautions).

For many of you, the Tenfold coach have been assisting your businesses with the threat of lockdowns looming and impacting upon every decision. It will be a major relief when this is no longer the case and you and your business coach can plan for and grow your businesses in both the short and long term with confidence.

Ash

Ashley Thomson B.Eng. (Hons), Grad. Dip. Mgmt, MEI
Managing Director
Tenfold Business Coaching

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