by Jentrified Citizen
Today, we received two shocking news — One is the record high of 287 new infections pushing the new total to over 1900 confirmed cases in Singapore.
The other is Land Transport Authority announcing today that it is in the midst of “rolling out” plans to have social distancing in public transport and at stations, bus stops and stations. Why is the latter a shocker?
Today is 9 April, almost three months since we had our first case of COVID-19 virus! Why did it take our government that long to realise preventive action is necessary despite being warned by many netizens of the endless crowds (unmasked at that) in trains and buses and malls etc, etc!
The longer this pandemic plays out the more it is exposing the weaknesses of government leaders and the major flaws in policies and societies, including in Singapore. As someone rightly pointed out there is hollow praise in premature accolades and in the constant self praise by some governments. Luxuriating in praise from the World Health Organisation at the 100 m dash is fool’s gold when this pandemic is a marathon with no finishing line in sight yet. Gold should should be awarded to the deserving at the finish line.
To be fair, all governments have been working very hard to tackle the pandemic including our government. Some have been outstanding in how they have handled and managed the crisis and reassured their people such as in Taiwan, South Korea and New Zealand. We have much to learn from them in regards to crisis and people management.
Our govt did great initially and the contact tracing is certainly good and we have an excellent and responsive healthcare system. But our Govt leaders have shown an inability to think out of the box and to anticipate and foresee the crisis scenarios in a holistic picture. The key to good crisis management is not in just reacting and doing damage control but in anticipating issues and preventing them from becoming a big problem.
The fact is costly mistakes have been made and our govt was slow in taking proactive preventive measures starting with not shutting the doors fast to visitors from Wuhan (don’t be xenophobic, cannot close borders they said) to not anticipating that the infection rate would surge by letting people go out as per normal and allowing crowds in malls, on trains and buses without any masks.
Worse, telling people that masks do not help and actually advocating through propaganda and advertisements and in school education telling everyone NOT to wear mask unless sick was a life-endangering mistake that should not have been made. The over-fixation on logistics and stockpiling surgical and N95 masks for frontliners led to this terrible mistake.
Yes, healthcare workers need the masks and yes there is a mask shortage but common sense tells us it will become a vicious cycle stressing the healthcare system if even more people fall ill due to lack of proper protection.
Director General George Gao of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in March: ”The big mistake in the U.S. and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren’t wearing masks. This virus is transmitted by droplets and close contact. Droplets play a very important role — you’ve got to wear a mask, because when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth. Many people have asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infections. If they are wearing face masks, it can prevent droplets that carry the virus from escaping and infecting others.”
The leaders in most countries have urged the use of masks as one of the key ways to protect against the virus and they also set out to protect BOTH the people and healthcare workers by rationing sales of masks and telling people to be prudent in the usage and to stay home.
Some like Taiwan and Hongkong got creative and churned out alternative Do-It-Yourself masks and cloth masks over a month ago at least. Here, our government only stopped “discouraging people to wear a mask” last week in early April and even then does not insist by law that everyone should wear a mask when they go out.
Such confusing U-turns in policies and the now lame attempt to tell us to mask has led to some people to say “Govt never said must wear. It is optional”!
Over the past three months, the virulent nature of COVID-19 was laid bare for all to see as we gawked at the shockingly fast spread globally and yet there was always a sense of hesitance and slowness in our govt’s response.
Concerned about the economy and perhaps wanting not to spark panic (or because the ministers really believed this virus was not a giant threat) the govt downplayed it too much in their tone, words and actions.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong even told us to live life as normally as possible in a Facebook post last month! Many people have been lulled into a false sense of security too early and the urgency emerging now is coming a tad late. Just a few days ago, huge crowds still formed at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, some malls and at IKEA as if all was well.
The explosion of cases and fast increasing number of infections here did not surprise many of us as we had been screaming on social media posts (some even wrote letters to the MSM) about the shocking complacency of many locals and expats here and about the glaring hot spots that were like tinder awaiting the right spark. Unmasked humans thronging overcrowded public transport, crowded restaurants, crowded shops, crowded food courts, crowded wet markets, crowded Mustafa were all recipes for a disaster waiting to happen. Frequent hand washing and sanitising? Few were spotted using sanitisers in public while many were spotted leaving toilets without washing their hands still!
NGOs had also warned early about the potential petri dishes at crowded dormitories and construction sites. Yet, the warnings of over-crowded filthy dorms housing foreign workers were ignored, seemingly swept under the carpet so to speak, “third-rate” humans not worthy of better attention while returning locals and expats were quarantined in 5 star hotels. Life is unfair but it cannot be this unjust.
The ignored warnings have manifested into several hundred infected foreign workers and a quarantine of over 20,000 and counting. Too much not done, too little proactive action taken, too late to put the clock back.
And today, Minister Masagos Zulkifli lamented that too many people were not taking this COVID-19 seriously. Perhaps the minister ,who also serves on the task force, can spark an honest reflection on what was done wrong and how to get more people to take it seriously.
For one, call it a LOCKDOWN and not that ridiculous and lame “Circuit Breaker”. Simisai circuit breaker when the house is on fire already???
Every country with a lockdown calls it that except for Singapore. Uniquely Singapore?
Spare us. Secondly, all signs point to a DORSCON RED already so why isn’t the govt raising the Red alert?
Raise to Red, Call it Lockdown and I guarantee that will get more people to take this seriously.
In some ways I am glad this pandemic is shining inescapable light and shame on many wrongful acts committed by humans, the follies of some governments and showing up the utter selfishness of many which includes the leaders of the People’s Action Party pushing to hold the General Election sooner than necessary.
How could they even think about that now when the infection rate is spiralling upwards each day? All their attention and our state’s limited resources should and must be focused on taming this spread and calming the people first. No ifs No buts about this. Lives must come before votes.
This pandemic is separating the chaff from the wheat as we see the common man step forward as our true heroes: Too many to name here but they include the whistle blower doctor who died in China, many healthcare workers who died in the line of duty; the four brave local docs here who wrote a letter urging us, against govt narrative, to wear masks; the countless nurses, doctors and all healthcare workers worldwide who work tirelessly to save lives; the average Joes and Janes who create videos to show how to make DIY masks and other Personal Protection Equipment gear; the community helping each other such as by donating masks and food to the needy and elderly; the many funny meme-makers who crack jokes daily to cheer the world etc, etc, etc.
In contrast, where are our crazy rich tycoons, they who who have fed off this land? They have been surprisingly silent. What else will we see and what else will humanity learn as the pandemic unfolds further?