Senior Lecturer and Professor of Practice at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Donald Low, shared his thoughts on Singapore’s crisis response in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic on his Facebook earlier today (10 April).
Prof Low started his post by describing how he thought Singapore’s crisis response was the “Gold Standard” as compared to the measures taken by the Hong Kong government when the crisis first broke out.
“In the first month or so of the crisis, I also thought the HK government’s response to the then epidemic (now pandemic) paled in comparison to Sg’s “gold standard” response. HK also didn’t have someone like Lawrence Wong whose crisis comms has been truly world class—even now when Sg has a much bigger problem on its hands with the clusters at the FW dorms,” wrote Prof Low.
By thinking back about what had been going on in Singapore for the past couple of months after the coronavirus outbreak that soon became a pandemic, Prof Low acknowledged that it was unnecessary to put others down just to lift oneself up.
In this case, he was referring to Minister of Trade and Industry, Chan Chun Sing’s leaked audio recording back in February.
Prof Low expressed that no matter how one disagrees with the Hong Kong government’s crisis response, it should not be difficult to admit that Singapore is different from Hong Kong as we do not have much access to face masks from China and this was why we needed to prioritise and ration the masks.
Looking at the issue in retrospect, Prof Low said that it was worse when the Internet Brigade (IB) was adamant with creating an illusion of unanimity by applauding the Minister’s “hard truths” and way of speaking after the recording was leaked. Prof Low revealed that many Singaporeans he knows were embarrassed by Mr Chan’s comments.
He had also raised the issue of Singaporean’s attitude towards an unfamiliar threat, and that we should all be cautious about claiming superiority and criticising how others are dealing with the threat. Prof Low mentioned that the measures Singaporeans thought were unnecessary became something we have to do now.
“More importantly, when we’re dealing with a new and unfamiliar threat, we really should be a lot more circumspect about claiming superiority and criticising how others are dealing with the threat. The more complex or wicked the problem, the more humility we should have. Their solutions that we thought were unnecessary, even dumb (HK introduced social distancing and promoted mask-wearing right from the start of the epidemic) then are exactly what we have to do now.”
Regardless of his thoughts, Prof Low has nothing against the Singaporean Government when they announced that the outbreak had become worse and that we need to take drastic measures, he clarified. However, he expressed that he could not bear with the “know-it-all” attitude displayed by some in the Government over the course of this crisis. He had also pressed on the issue where Internet Brigades (IBs) arrogantly attacked the people who dared to voice different opinions that had turned out to be correct later on.
Seeing how things have progressed over a couple of months, Prof Low hoped that this crisis would be able to teach Singaporeans two lessons. The first lesson he touched on was to pay attention to the people who had been voicing out different opinions. In this case, he meant the people who had been pleading the Government to do more about the living conditions of foreign workers in Singapore.
The second lesson would be asking Singaporeans not to be boastful or “haolian” when we’re doing well.
“I hope this crisis would teach Singaporeans two lessons. First, as Dr Li Wenliang said before he died, “A healthy society should not only have one voice”. The people who have been imploring the government to do more about the wretched living conditions of our FWs have been vindicated; we should have been listening and paying more attention to them and their suggestions. They are our Li Wenliangs, and we’re stronger as a society if we would accept them as a legitimate and necessary part of our society even if we disagree with them. The second lesson is: when you’re doing well, don’t be haolian,” Prof Low wrote.
Here is an image shared by Prof Low pointing out how Hong Kong’s “overreaction” towards the pandemic actually resulted in lower confirmed cases and deaths.