Two months ago (Feb), Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing met with a group of local business leaders organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) for a “frank, closed-door discussion” on the COVID-19 outbreak impacting the country’s economy and society.
A recording of his dialogue was secretly made and then leaked onto social media.
In the recording of the closed-door discussion, Chan can be heard describing the panic buying at the shopping markets as as “xia suay” or “disgraceful”, adding that he was “ashamed” by these people who broke into panic and rushed to stockpile essential items due to fear of the outbreak, calling them idiots.
Furthermore, he went on to comment on Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s decision to wear surgical masks in public (‘Singapore hospitals would suffer if leaders wore masks like Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam: minister‘, 18 Feb).
Chan said that if politicians in Singapore were to do the same as Lam, Singapore’s hospital system “would have broken down”. At the time, Chan and other Singapore ministers told Singaporeans that only those who were unwell need to wear a mask but in Hong Kong, experts have urged all residents to don one when going out.
“Today, you [read the] newspaper. What is happening to Hong Kong? What did South China Morning Post just report about Hong Kong? They are down to less than one month’s supply of masks for their medical people,” he said.
If Singapore had followed in Hong Kong’s footsteps “without thinking”, with its leaders wearing masks to give updates on the virus outbreak and causing panic, “I can guarantee you, today our hospital system would have broken down”, he said.
“There will be no more surgical masks for our hospital people because [these would have been] all used up like tissue paper.”
He also boasted that Singapore government is more far-sighted that Hong Kong’s.
“While we’re dealing with the current [situation], we must make sure that we think two steps down the road … don’t just look at the here and now,” Chan said.
“When the recovery finally comes whether it is six months or nine months, how do we position your business, our economy to go out faster than [others]. I can tell you, Hong Kong, they’re not thinking about this because [they’re thinking about] only here and now.”
As yesterday, Hong Kong which has a population of 7.4 million reports a total confirmed cases of 862 infection while Singapore which has a population of 5.6 million, reports a total confirmed cases of 1,189.
PM Lee: We will no longer discourage people from wearing masks
However, in an apparent “U-turn” from the Government’s previous stance on masks, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Fri (3 Apr) that the authorities will “no longer discourage people from wearing masks”.
He said the Government is concerned about “some cases out there community going undetected” even if there are few of them.
“We also now have evidence that an infected person can show no symptoms, and yet still pass on the virus to others,” he said. “This is why the WHO is reviewing the issue of face masks, and so is the US CDC.”
“Therefore we will no longer discourage people from wearing masks,” he added.
Given that Chan’s boss, PM Lee, has now said the government no longer discourages people from wearing masks, would Chan be apologising to Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam for insulting her in wearing masks and “causing panic” in public?