The Ministry of Health (MOH) in its press release on Wednesday (31 August) had announced that another 33 people were diagnosed with Zika virus infection as of today (31 August) making the total number of cases to 115.
Following MOH’s announcement, various governments have came out to state the numbers of their nationals who worked in Singapore and infected by the virus.
On Thursday (1 September), the China’s Foreign Ministry sent a statement to Reuters that its embassy in Singapore had been informed by the island state’s health ministry that 21 Chinese nationals in the country are confirmed to have been infected with Zika.
On Thursday (1 September), India’s foreign ministry confirmed that 13 of its nationals had tested positive for the Zika virus in Singapore.
In response to Reuters inquiry, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr Vikas Swarup, said, “According to our mission in Singapore, 13 Indian nationals have tested positive for Zika in Singapore.”
On 1 September, the High Commission of Bangladesh said that six Bangladeshi nationals are among those infected with the Zika virus in Singapore.
In response to a Reuters inquiry, Mr Mahbub Uz Zaman, High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Singapore answered through emails, “We have been informed yesterday by MOH (the Ministry of Health) that of those tested positive, as of 12 noon on 30 August, 6 are Bangladeshi nationals.”
All in all, so far a significant number of the infected cases are from foreign workers. But before anyone starts pointing fingers at the foreigners as the blame for the viral infection. We need to question ourselves on whether it is a nationality issue or class issue to begin with.
Alex Au, Singapore’s well-known social-political blogger of “Yawning Bread” noted in his blog that Singapore should read significance to the fact that a majority of initial cases are from foreign workers and the fact of mosquito breeding being a continuing problem at construction sites.
He related to his experience in volunteering at local Non-Government Organisation, Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) and said that employers in this industry are generally always quick to penalise foreign workers for seeing doctors and taking sick leave. So workers will continue to work even if they are ill, until the illness becomes intolerable. He asked how many mosquitoes would have bitten the worker before he finally goes to the doctor?
He wrote, “The moral of the story is this: we cannot treat an underclass shabbily without a cost boomeranging upon society as whole. In this case, a node of infection developed within a construction site, a node we didn’t pick up on until the numbers had incubated and climbed and begun to affect the residents around. So instead of Zika cases appearing in Singapore one or two or three at a time, we get this blast. One or two or three cases would not have led to travel advisories and consequential impact on the tourism industry. A long-incubated blast on the other hand makes for stunning headlines.”