As the saying goes: “Don’t reinvent the wheel” . I think it is possibly quite apt to use this phrase on our government in its management of the COVID-19 outbreak. For instance, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee) keeps insisting on calling our “lock down” measures a “circuit breaker”.
Why can’t he just call a spade a spade and use the term “lock down” like everyone else?
The phrase “lock down” is already widely in use and most people are familiar with what it means. It is also unambiguous in its meaning. “Circuit breaker” on the other hand is misleading and confusing.
Breaking a circuit will lead to a black out. In Singlish one would say: ” Why you want black out now? Virus not enough ah? Must also have black out?” Virus outbreak management is not a creative writing contest. Please just stick to wording that the whole world recognises and understands.
The phrase “lock down” is crystal clear. You are literally supposed to be “locked down” in your home. The term “circuit breaker” on the other hand holds no such connotations.
In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged Singaporeans to be “patient” and “resolute” in carrying out the “circuit-breaker” measures to slow down the rate of new infections in the country. He further said: “This is why I need each of you to take the circuit breaker very seriously. Stay at home, stop socialising in person with others, even with extended family members who do not live with you. Keep in touch with them but by other means, for example online, on the phone, writing emails or even letters.“But do not make physical contact, because that is how the virus is spread.”
Citing a phone call with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, PM Lee also said that according to Ardern, New Zealand had begun to see a reduction in the number of new cases on the 11th day of its “stringent lock down“.
He went on to say, “So we have to be patient, but we also have to be resolute…If we all reduce our contact with one another, we also reduce our chances of catching or transmitting the virus. This will slow down new infections, both linked and unlinked, and after a while the number of new cases will fall.”
So what Singapore is doing, is quite simply the same “lock down” measures implemented by other countries such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand, which renders the term “circuit breaker” completely unnecessary, meaningless and superfluous.
So, why does the government persist in using a phrase that quite frankly causes confusion?
Everyone is calling these “stay at home” measures a lock down, why can’t we? Using a different term is just pointless!
The police have been mobilised to keep the population in check. But is it fair to expect people to adopt lock down behaviour when you are insisting on calling it a “circuit breaker”? Isn’t that like cutting off your nose to spite your face?