Personal details scrawled on Post-it notes, an unmasked security guard and an hours-long wait in a U.S. rental car. My family was two days from departure for Singapore and the window for getting a negative Covid-19 verdict was closing fast. The line at a drive-in testing operation at the University of Colorado snaked for several blocks and the sun had barely risen. It didn’t inspire confidence. The American health care system was wrestling with the rampant omicron variant that showed where the U.S., for all its financial and industrial prowess, falls down. I just wanted to get back to the city-state safely. Its hyper-managed approach to the pandemic might have something going for it after all.
Singapore’s very gradual re-opening is being tested by omicron, too, though officials have so far resisted returning to a version of lockdown. I have been skeptical the past two years as to whether Singapore had the policy mix right. Open too much and Covid may race through the densely populated island. Keep the economy under wraps too long, and the tiny republic could be left behind, jeopardizing its carefully-tended reputation as a hub for capital and talent. After this trip, I have become more sympathetic to the things Singapore does appear to have gotten mostly right.