Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin has said that the outbreak of the corona virus cannot be attributed to bad living conditions alone.
Instead, he fingered “the highly contagious nature of the coronavirus and the fact that dorms involve groups of people living in close quarters” to be the more likely culprit of the COVID-19 spread.
From a politician who was the Minister of Manpower from 2014 to 2015, this could sound like “grasping at straws” trying to protect his own legacy as an ex Minister for Manpower.
The fact that people have to live in such close quarters contributes a large part to the bad living conditions. In other words, the living conditions are bad in large part because of the overcrowding. To somehow separate “bad living” conditions from “people living in close quarters” is a non starter to begin with. Why is Tan trying to split hairs?
He went on to state that had university dormitories been open, there would have been widespread contagion too. There are clearly fallacies and holes in this argument.
Firstly, university dormitories are mostly twin share rooms. Many are even single rooms. That is vastly different from migrant worker dormitories where there are 8-12 grown men sharing a room.
Secondly, the government took the move to shut university dormitories down while ignoring migrant worker dormitories despite reports in the public domain of contagion within the migrant worker community as early as February.
That oversight has to fall squarely on the government. To try and differentiate between “bad living conditions” and “people living in close quarters” is academic, irrelevant and unconstructive at this point. It could even come across as needless deflection and overly defensive.
The coronavirus spread so quickly within the migrant worker dormitories because of, among other things, overcrowding which in turn contributed to the “bad living conditions” and a lack of foresight on the part of the authorities to realise this and act quickly enough.
Singaporeans are mostly reasonable and will understand if mistakes are made if those in charge will just apologise and take it on the chin. This constant attempts at justification and blame evasion is why the issue continues to rage.
As of writing, Singapore currently has 22,460 COVID-19 cases. This is really not the time for the government to be trying to make a differentiation between “bad living conditions” and “people living in close quarters”.
The points are:
- the international spotlight has been shone on Singapore’s migrant worker dormitories and improvements will have to be made and
- COVID-19 cases are high within the migrant worker community because of overcrowding and government oversight.
Deal with that.
The migrant workers did not choose to live in such close proximity. You put them there. You did not give them a choice.