In the earliest days of Covid-19, we were scared and uninformed. The only way to make sense of a deadly virus spreading around the world was to quantify it – the number of cases and deaths, countries it had reached, age groups it affected.

We have learned a lot in the past 18 months, but too little has changed in terms of our response mechanisms, particularly in “Zero Covid” countries such as Singapore, where I live, and Australia. The impulse to count every case has become debilitating. It’s time to focus on a more informative set of data.

On Tuesday, Singapore announced it would revert to strict social-distancing measures to contain a recent outbreak that started at a karaoke lounge. The daily count of locally transmitted cases has risen well past 100 this week, after hovering in the single digits before the cluster was identified. The restrictions come weeks after the country laid out plans for a “new normal,” in which Singaporeans would learn to live with Covid, much like the flu. The strategy was predicated on steadily climbing vaccination rates and a goal of getting both shots to two-thirds of the population by National Day on Aug. 9.

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