Singapore was considered the ‘gold standard’ in managing the spread of the COVID-19 virus at the beginning of the crisis, by implementing efficient contact tracing, supported by effective economic stimulus and social policies. However, in recent weeks, its weak link has been exposed, and three in five new COVID-19 cases are now from the city’s dorms – the dense worker dormitories hidden away at the edges of the city state. Singapore is hugely dependent on these workers for all construction in the city including various other services connected to manual labour. The city has realised this as a point of concern and is planning to rethink its approach and policies towards this 2-tier housing inequity.
Secondly, Singapore is dependent on imports for more than 90% of its food requirements. Whilst it recognises this lack of resilience and food insecurity and is aiming to become 30% self-sufficient by 2030 (’30 by 30’), this crisis has advanced its plans to speed up its independence from convoluted global food supply and logistics chains. It has recently announced the intention to develop a food masterplan in addition to building urban food farms.
The virus has several clear lessons for Singapore, an island city with an ageing population:
Firstly, let’s redefine housing standards – not just for more than 300,000 low wage migrant workers living in dense quarters but also rethinking the liveability of 70% Singaporeans who reside in government subsidised Housing Development Board (HDB) apartments, of which close to half will be 65 and above by 2050.
Second, we need to rethink food resilience and food security, including an urgent focus on growing/ manufacturing essential food within its boundaries. This will redefine its industrial lands which may also include high capacity food ‘manufacturing’ industries including environmentally sustainable lab meat production.
Both these factors will shape a more sustainably developed built environment – improving building typologies, residential and industrial masterplanning, including food, water, energy and waste cycles.