A Singaporean, Anupama Kannan, wrote a letter to ST Forum appealing to “the few” not to let COVID-19 fear translate into hatred towards a certain race (‘Forum: Fear should not translate into hatred towards certain race‘, 17 May).
“My husband and I came to Singapore as newly-weds 22 years ago, and promptly fell in love with the place and the people,” she said.
They were subsequently offered Singapore citizenship and gladly accepted it. She explained, “We gladly accepted since, by then, every time we landed at Changi Airport, it truly felt like we were home.”
“We have never once felt like outsiders in our neighbourhood,” she added. “Lately, neighbors have been checking in with us to ask if our relatives in India are doing all right amid its pandemic situation.”
However, she found the recent “racist attacks” on people of Indian origin and the multitude of hurtful comments hurled against them online were very distressing, she said.
Even though Singaporeans are living through unprecedented times, and the fear of being infected by the COVID-19 virus is real, this fear should not manifest itself as hatred towards a certain segment of the community or be based on the perceived country of origin, she noted.
“It is not a blame game – Singaporeans are in this fight together – and taking a polarised view of the issue will only add to the tension and not alleviate it,” she shared.
“Singapore was one of the first countries to rush to India’s aid when the crisis broke, and a majority of Singaporeans have been kind and full of concern about what India and Indians are going through.”
“I appeal to the few who are allowing their emotions to cloud their rational thinking,” she added.
“For many expats and new citizens of Indian origin, Covid-19 fatalities in India are not just statistics, but personal losses – the wounds are still raw and the end is not in sight.”
“What is needed is for more people to show kindness, understanding and empathy – this doesn’t cost anything, but will be priceless for the ones receiving them.”
Singapore’s ban not targeted at any nationality
Meanwhile, Minister Ong Ye Kung assured the public last month (26 Apr) that the move by Singapore to ban travellers with recent travel history to India is not targeted at any nationality.
It is aimed at addressing the risk posed by places with a high incidence of COVID-19 infections, he said.
Responding to a media question about Indian nationals flying in from other countries to bypass the travel ban, Ong said that such a traveller would not have the same level of risk as someone who came directly from India.
He explained that anyone staying in one place long enough would assume the risk profile of that place, regardless of nationality.
He said, “If your policy is to target risk, then for someone from a high-risk country to move to a lower-risk country, stay there for some time, and after that remain non-Covid positive… and then come to Singapore, actually, you have lowered the risk tremendously in that process.”
In any case, the recent COVID-19 cluster which originated from Changi Airport has now become the largest in Singapore. The infections started from airport workers and later spread to members of the public.
Virus breaks through airport’s defense
Last week (14 May), Ong finally acknowledged that a “mutant virus” from “higher risk countries” has broken through. “Unfortunately, this mutant virus, very virulent, broke through the layers of (airport) defense,” he told the media.
He revealed that from the first 20 over infections, Changi Airport has detected and found that the infections are quite congregated.
“Most in fact congregate around one zone and this is the zone with a finger pier that receive higher risk countries’ arrivals including South Asia and then the conveyor belt and immigration,” he shared. “So, that whole zone and infections were all around that area.”
“From that zone, workers go have their lunch, go have their meals at the Terminal 3 basement 2 commercial areas and the food court,” he added.
“And we suspect from there, it transmitted to members of public that visited the place.”
Ong is one of the few PAP 4G leaders vying for the next PM position in Singapore.