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[Lest We Forget] Our CV19 Story: When Complacency Meets Indecisiveness; S'pore & Singaporeans Suffer
|07-07-2020, 11:03 PM||#1|
Join Date: May 2012
[Lest We Forget] Our CV19 Story: When Complacency Meets Indecisiveness; S'pore & Singaporeans Suffer
I was quite appalled by the recent spate white-washing (no puns intended) of Singapore’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
And was particularly peeved with national leaders patting themselves unashamedly on the backs. LHL as most senior political leader commented that “4G leaders have done very well”.
Of all people, he should be coming out to give an honest critique of how his 4G underlings had performed and how Singapore could learn and do better next time!
Where is the humility, Mr. Prime Minister?
By not admitting to our missteps, Singapore will not learn from our mistakes.
Viruses and pandemics do not respect the money that the LHL’s administration or any subsequent governments are able to throw at it.
Juxtaposed with the rest of the four Asian tigers and their economies that have done so much better this time round in 2020, Singapore and Singaporeans need to go into deep reflection on why we have went from the hero in the handling of the 2003 SARS crisis till zero in CV19 after 16 years of the LHL’s administration.
If Singapore do not learn from the atrocious handling of CV19 in 2020, Singapore will be in a much worse position to handle the next pandemic or crisis.
So I decided to pen my own opinions and make my own critique to share.
These opinions are based on facts that you can independently verify if you bothered to.
If you think the facts are wrong, present yours and we can have a debate here.
I form my opinions based on the study and analysis of these facts. You are free to disagree with them, but I am entitled to them.
If new facts that will lead to a different conclusion can be presented, I am open to changing my opinion and narrative.
The critique is about 15,000 words. I cannot apologise for it being so long because they were simply too many missteps and U-turns to cover.
I will attempt break it down into parts and post them in 10 smaller bite-size parts in the next few posts for easier reading, digestion, comments and debate.
For those who are ferocious readers with stamina and have 50 minutes of your life to spare. Or if you prefer to download and read it in your quiet time, here’s the PDF link:
This timeline critique is for Singapore and all Singaporeans. Feel free to download and share it around.
Last edited by Savantrainmaker; 08-07-2020 at 04:46 AM..
|07-07-2020, 11:03 PM||#2|
Join Date: May 2012
Part 1 of 10:
[Lest We Forget] Our CV19 Story: When Complacency Meets Indecisiveness; Singapore & Singaporeans Suffer
This is an opinion and personal critique piece tracing Singapore’s timeline in her fight against the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or commonly known as COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) coined by the World Health Organization (WHO), in the 180 days or so after WHO alerted the world of the new coronavirus on 5 January 2020 (Day Zero).
Introduction – Singapore’s Civil Service Was Alert and Acted Swiftly Initially
On the last day of 2019, WHO was alerted of the outbreak of an atypical pneumonia in the province of Wuhan that was suspected to be linked to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV-1), the flu-like virus that killed 774 worldwide – in 2003.
Singapore’s civil servants at the Ministry of Health (MOH), Ministry of Transport (MOT) and Civil Aviation Authorities (CAAS) were alert and probably caught wind of the new Chinese coronavirus from the scoops of international news agencies like Reuters and CNN which were alerted of the New Year’s Eve coronavirus alert.
The republic’s initial response was swift and immediate. One day after the New Year Day’s public holiday on 2 January 2020, Singapore announced that all travellers from Wuhan, China will need to undergo temperature screen on arrival to Singapore, starting 3 January.
The Singapore civil service acted a full two days before WHO formally alerted the world to be prepared for a new corona virus from China on 5 January!
|07-07-2020, 11:04 PM||#3|
Join Date: May 2012
Part 2 of 10:
Background – Singapore’s SARS-CoV-1 Playbook in 2003
Singapore is no stranger to the coronavirus. SARS-CoV-1 that infected 238 and killed 33 on the island-state.
Ironically, Singapore’s mortality rate at 13.9% was much higher than the most infected country, China that had 5,327 cases with 349 death (6.6% mortality rate).
Hong Kong, being the closest region next to China had 1,755 cases with 299 deaths (17% mortality rate). Another country near to China, Taiwan had 346 cases and 73 deaths (21.1% mortality rate). Canada had 251 cases and 43 deaths (17.1% mortality rate).
So why did Singapore do so well against SARS-CoV-1 in 2003 while countries with equally advance public health and medical infrastructure like Canada, Taiwan and Hong Kong fared worse?
The answer was swift and decisive national decisions aimed at running ahead of the curve of the virus to intercept transmissions within the community and protecting the most vulnerable in Singapore – children, the sick and the elderly.
Government decisions under the Goh Chok Tong’s administration was decisive, simple to understand, easy to implement with existing government resources and able to be executed lightning fast on the ground.
The GCT administration’s strategy involved the early detection of SARS-CoV-1 through aggressive testing, compulsory quarantine of probable cases (14 days) with strict enforcement and even total isolation of suspected ones (10 days) from the community.
Immediately after Singapore’s Patient Zero was tested positive on 1 March 2003, more than three months after the disease appeared in Guangdong (China), the Singapore government started educating the public on symptoms of the disease, how the virus may be spread, and urging people to seek immediate medical attention if they developed such symptoms.
Suspected cases were quarantined immediately instead of being sent home on medical leaves and not allowed to move about freely in the community.
Till then, it was an unknown disease and the GCT’s administration chose to err on the side of caution and protecting citizens’ health first by acting always on the safe side. They chose to quarantine suspected cases immediately and isolate even their contacts.
On 22 March 2003, Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and the adjacent Communicable Disease Centre were designated as the hospital for intake and solitary isolation of all suspect and probable SARS-CoV-1 cases to prevent cross-contamination of other hospitals designated for all other illness and medical care.
After each case was identified, investigations were carried out immediately to trace all individuals who had come in close contact with the infected person. The Ministry of Health (MOH) invoked the Infectious Diseases Act (IDA) on 24 March 2003 to quarantine and monitor all such contacts.
Home Quarantine Order (HQO) was initiated under Section 15(2) of the IDA. HQO had profound social impact on families. Once a family is served an HQO, it means all members cannot leave the confines of their homes for 10/14 days – not even to go to school, work, or the market nearby.
But the HQO was both emotionally and physically stressful for the patients to overcome this illness, and for family members who were under quarantine too.
So, the government gazetted the chalets at Loyang Aloha for those served HQOs who did not wish to stay at their home address. The quarantine server had to pay a subsidised rate of S$25 a day, which paid for lodging and four meals during the 10/14-day quarantine period.
SARS-CoV-1 patients who had recovered and cleared of the virus were even kept under quarantine in the hospital for monitoring initially and later quarantine at home upon their discharge to mitigate the slight chance that they may become infectious again.
To prevent the spread of the disease through taxis and the public transport system, a dedicated private ambulance service was commissioned to transport suspected and probable cases to TTSH.
By the third week of the first confirmed case in Singapore, the GCT’s administration had already procured and distributing a few million thermometers free to households, school children, civil servants and national service men to conduct daily temperature checks. Schools continued to be closed after the one-week March school holidays until 16 April 2003.
In addition, hospitals checked the temperature of all visitors and took down their personal details to facilitate contact tracing. All public hospitals also restricted the number of visitors, even barring them completely at one stage. Those visiting non-SARS patients had to wear masks and pass temperature checks.
When the WHO recommended on 27 March 2003 that airlines start screening passengers for potential exposure to SARS, Singapore immediately requested that all airlines flying into and out of Singapore comply.
Changi Airport started screening on 29 March 2003 just as a fourth imported case was identified (someone infected overseas but diagnosed in Singapore). All incoming travellers were required to complete a health declaration card and subjected to temperature checks upon arrival.
Officials under the GCT’s administration again worked at lightning fast pace when defence scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and engineers from Singapore Technologies (ST) Electronics ‘invented’ the world’s first Infrared Fever Screen System (IFSS).
The all-Singaporean team innovated and adapted military-use thermal imagers into temperature scanning machines to mass-screen travellers at all of Singapore’s checkpoints. Singapore’s borders were secured.
When Singapore’s own needs of IFSS were fulfilled, ST Electronics started to export these machines all over the world as Singapore’s contribution in the global fight against SARS-CoV-1. The IFSS system was subsequently named as the Best Inventions of 2003 by the Time magazine.
By 18 May 2003, Day 79 of the outbreak of SARS-CoV-1, the last positive case in Singapore was detected and WHO declared Singapore to be free of SARS-CoV-1 on 30 May, with the United States lifting their travel advisory to Singapore earlier in the month.
Singapore had fought and won the battle against SARS-CoV-1 a few months before the rest of the world could contain the world’s first coronavirus disease. The last SARS-CoV-1 case around the world was reported more than one year later in May 2004.
An ahead of the curve performance by the island nation in 2003, setting an example for the rest of the world how an unknown virus was not underestimated nor played down. And that a global pandemic could be successfully contained through swift and decisive government intervention.
|07-07-2020, 11:05 PM||#4|
Join Date: May 2012
Part 3 of 10:
2020: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
January 2020 – Quick Decisions and Intervention by the Civil Service without Political Consideration.
17 years later, Singapore reacted quick and well to the early warnings out of Wuhan, China on New Year’s Eve. By 3 January, Singapore was already screening the temperature of all travellers from Wuhan, China arriving into Singapore after receiving the first alerts from WHO.
This showed that Singapore’s early warning system is working. The civil service corps at MOH and Ministry of Transport (MOT) were alert.
Any person who was conversant with Singapore’s fight against SARS-CoV-1 in 2003 would remember how Singapore acted swiftly and decisively to contain the virus in record time and keeping the mortality rate below the global average.
This was no fluke nor accident – it was due to a combination of an efficient civil service led by far-sighted and decisive political leaders under the GCT’s administration in 2003.
Even the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (LHL), who travelled to Switzerland from 20 to 25 January to attend the World Economic Forum at Davos told his global audience that Singapore “have been preparing for this since SARS” (SARS-CoV-1, since 17 years ago in 2003) and “we are much better prepared” to deal with another virus outbreak.
In the same interview on 23 January and building on the deeds and reputation of his predecessor, LHL added, “After SARS, we made a thorough review of what of the facilities we had – the infrastructure, hospitals, isolation wards, and the scientific testing and capabilities". “I think we are much better prepared now,” LHL added while highlighting the new 330-bed National Centre for Infectious Diseases was just opened in late 2018.
These reassuring words were well-intended and aimed at instilling confidence in Singapore’s ability to fight against 2020’s SARS-CoV-2.
However the final statement that he quipped saying that the new virus (later named COVID-19 and still unknown to even the world’s leading epidemiologists then) “does not appear to be as deadly as SARS”, was unnecessary and seemed to have arguably lulled the whole nation, including the country’s otherwise on-the-ball civil service into wanton complacency for at least the next 10 weeks.
This is especially blasé when communist China, an arguably more face-loving government than the LHL’s own administration, took the unprecedented and drastic measure of locking down a 11-million population city barely two days before the most important annual Chinese New Year holidays.
Any avid China watcher would understand that a cataclysm is not far away when China make such a high-signature decision. How can a seasoned Asian politician like LHL miss such a gargantuan heads-up and worse play down an unknown disease that closed down a 11-million population Chinese city to be nothing like SARS-CoV-1 and that “the new virus is much closer to influenza”?
LHL’s playing down of the virus at the onset not only led the whole nation into a state of deadly complacency (no puns intended), but also hampered any government officials’ desire and ability to act more swiftly and decisively to contain CV19 in Singapore before the tipping point is reached.
Coincidentally or not, later the same day after the interview, Singapore first CV19 case was reported on 23 January. He was a 66-year-old Chinese national from Wuhan.
Perhaps echoing the same confidence of Singapore’s CV19 management given at his Davos press interview, LHL continued his tour of Switzerland and celebrated Chinese New Year with 250 people in Zurich on 25 January before going back to Singapore the next day on 26 January.
On 27 January, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong chaired the first CV19 Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) press conference. Taskforce co-chairman Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong introduced and outlined Singapore’s plan to fight against CV19.
It was a well-thought out plan – 100% screening of travellers from China, serving 14 days leave-of-absence (LOA), apparently a tone-down version of 2003’s HQO to all arrivals from China. In short, it was a leaf from Singapore’s SARS-CoV-1 playbook, written in blood of the 33 who lost their lives in 2003.
However, when asked to comment on an online petition by Singaporeans asking for a total ban of travellers from China, after China itself ban the outwards travel of Chinese tour groups, Lawrence Wong warned against “overreacting, or worse turning xenophobic”.
Ong Ye Kung, the Minister for Education who was also a member of the taskforce, added: “Do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you.”
Perhaps cognisant of the festering ground sentiments against LHL’s administration decade-long ‘foreign talent’ policy in an election year, Singapore’s political leaders sought to silence the critics early by politicizing the people’s petition, titled “Stop the Wuhan virus from entering Singapore“.
They sought to frame the petition into citizenry’s xenophobia when all that the people were asking was for a temporary health and safety ban against anyone with a travel history to China, regardless of their nationalities until there is more clarity on virus situation.
Some words of the petition dated 26 January 2020, “we do not need to wait for severe cases before we take action” is almost prophetic today.
Barely two days after unfairly chastising Singaporeans for being xenophobic, the MTF announced its very first U-turn. It has now decided to impose a limited ban of entry to Singapore for those Chinese nationals with Hubei-issued passports or travel history to Hubei in the last 14 days, from 29 January.
This travel ban U-turn sounded scholarly and well thought-out. But created much confusion for frontline Immigration and Checkpoint officers executing the new directive.
Issues like Chinese travellers with Hubei-issued passports arriving from New York City or even other parts of China but have never visited Wuhan or Hubei within the last months arose on the ground that officers from the Immigration and Checkpoint Authorities (ICA) had to deal with daily.
Not to mention the possibility that many non-Hubei natives who were in Hubei in the last 14 days but may have slipped past the ban because they made a travel detour to other parts of China first.
After 72-hours of confusion on the ground, and as if the first decision to backtrack was not abrupt enough to embarrass the LHL’s supercilious administration, the ministerial taskforce made a second U-turn on 31 January in another last-minute policy change to ban all arrivals from China the next day from February onwards – barely less than a week after the now infamous words berating Singaporeans, “do not do unto others what you do not want others to do unto you.”.
This borders control issue will continue to fester in the coming weeks. Meanwhile another epidemic management issue is coming into focus.
|07-07-2020, 11:06 PM||#5|
Join Date: May 2012
Part 4 of 10:
Masks. To mask or not to mask?
Any trained epidemiologists, medical professional or even avid readers of medical history would have learnt how the French surgeon Paul Berger or our own Malaya-born doctor Ng Lean Tuck pioneered the use of surgical masks as part of the protective gear to combat surgical infections and pneumonic plagues. Masks, whether surgical, N95 or even just a piece of cloth would aid in the containment of any respiratory tract infections like tuberculosis, SARS-CoV-1 or even the seasonal influenza.
The use of facemasks is invaluable in infectious disease control, especially in circumventing droplet transmission. For example, the effectiveness of surgical masks and N95 masks in preventing the transmission of SARS-CoV-1 had been tested scientifically to be 68% and 91%, respectively.
Facemasks, when fitted properly, effectively disrupt the forward momentum of particles expelled from a cough or sneeze, preventing disease transmission. Even if the facemasks are ill-fitting, they are still able to interrupt the particles and airborne viruses sufficiently, such that these pathogens do not reach the breathing zones of people nearby.
This is one of the best methods to disrupt the transmission chain of respiratory tract infections in communities, short of total shutdown and isolation that would lead to major disruptions in the socio-economic activities of a society.
And at one cent per surgical mask during non-pandemic times (when one box of 50 cost just $5); it’s a no-brainer for governments to stockpile these for the emergency use of their populations during outbreaks of epidemics.
Even if the researched effectiveness is just 68%, the real value of a one-cent surgical mask is that they are the cheapest form of insurance and physical barrier to prevent the transmission of respiratory discharges of the infected, especially during the asymptomatic stage.
Singapore’s public campaign on the use of masks against the transmission of CV19 started in earnest on 22 January. In an interview with the Straits Times, Professor Leo Yee Sin, Executive Director of the National Centre of Infectious Diseases and MOH said that the public should not rely on N95 masks to guard against the Wuhan virus, even as they flew off the shelves at pharmacies.
“Instead, surgical masks are more appropriate in this case, the expert and MOH said on Wednesday (22 Jan 2020). Surgical masks can help reduce the spread of the virus and are more practical for the general public to use. They are meant to help block large-particle droplets and splatter from reaching the wearer's mouth and nose, and reduce exposure of the wearer's saliva and respiratory secretions to others.”
Two days before the Chinese New Year Lawrence Wong and Leo Yee Sin again went on the national TV prime time slot to repeat the same public message – N95 masks are not necessary and surgical masks are sufficient.
The national daily – Straits Times again reiterated the same message in an article published in the wee hours of Chinese New Year, and even attached an infographic on the right way to wear a surgical mask.
|07-07-2020, 11:06 PM||#6|
Join Date: May 2012
Part 5 of 10:
Abrupt U-Turn on Wearing Surgical Mask on 24 January 2020 – Sudden Realization that the National Stockpile was Insufficient?
However, in an abrupt about-turn in the Singapore’s national masking up stance, Lawrence Wong in a late-night Facebook post on 24 January 2020, entitled <Face Mask>, quoted “medical experts have also clarified that those who are well do not need to wear surgical masks”.
On 28 January, even the Prime Minister weigh in on the issue of ‘to mask or not to masks’ when he noted in a Facebook post that “in general, there is no need to wear a mask if you are not ill”.
Dr Chia Shi-Lu, the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health continued with the same public health message saying that "the surgical masks can prevent the passing of virus from a wearer, but when it comes to protecting (a healthy wearer), the masks won't protect from viruses" and even stressed “it is a misconception that wearing a mask will provide adequate protection against the coronavirus” in a newspaper interview on 29 January.
Thereafter, one after another Government-affiliated officials with medical training from an orthopedician, to a paediatrician, to a general surgeon and even a renal specialist came out to speak up in public giving their ‘medical expert’ opinions that wearing of masks if you are well is not necessary and there were no evidence of airborne nor asymptomatic transmissions of CV19 in Singapore.
The same “Do Not Wear A Mask If You Are Well” and “Do Not Use This (surgical mask) If You Are Well” public health messages were repeated and printed on the front pages of millions of copies of the various national dailies as well as government advisory flyers that accompanied the millions of packs of 4-piece surgical masks that were distributed to all households from 1 – 9 February 2020.
Taxpayers’ dollars were spent to print these public information, together with the engagement of popular public entertainment figures to make multiple publicity videos in various languages discouraging and shaming the populace (or at least the actor(s) ostensibly representing the portion of the populace who wore masks then in the series of gov.sg sponsored satires) from wearing surgical masks in the absence of flu symptoms to protect themselves and their vulnerable family members.
The population, including I suspect some in the LHL’s administration were sold and convinced by their own series of irresponsible public health messages - “Do Not Wear A Mask If You Are Well” and “Do Not Use This (surgical mask) If You Are Well”.
The good old hygiene practice of wearing masks in public (especially in Asia during the flu season) have been “discouraged” in Singapore during a global respiratory epidemic outbreak and the national common sense have succumbed to state-sponsored propaganda.
What is worse for the mask debacle is yet to come in the second week of February 2020.
Meanwhile, what was perhaps a nightmare scenario for Singaporean epidemiologists and other frontline medical professionals trying their best to contain the fast spreading of CV19 within Singapore happened when the People’s Association under the LHL’s administration decided to press on with their annual Chingay Parade that was held from 31 January to 1 February 2020.
The annual Chinese New Year public parade involved an estimated 30,000 spectators and 6,000 performers (500 of which were from overseas with a handful from Wuhan, China). Both the Prime Minister and the President of Singapore with their spouses in tow took turns to grace the two-night event, waving hands aboard colourful celebratory floats in front of the cheering crowds.
|07-07-2020, 11:08 PM||#7|
Join Date: May 2012
Part 6 of 10:
February 2020 – The GDP Show Must Go On!
Next up, perhaps taking cue from the ‘success’ of the People’s Association in continuing with the Chingay Parade, the organisers of the Singapore Airshow from 11 to 16 February 2020 decided not to cancel the biennial event that attracted more than 130,000 attendees – both trade participants and the public – in 2018.
But good sense did prevail amongst many foreign exhibitors as some 70 of them including big names like Lockheed Martin, Textron, Gulfstream, Bombardier etc. decided to take corporate social responsibility into their own hands and pulled out from the show to protect both the public and their employees.
In the first week of February, the numbers of infected in Singapore climbed steadily.
Unlike SARS-CoV-1 in 2003, when the disease was brought back to Singapore by three Singaporeans from Hong Kong, the first 14 cases in Singapore were brought in by foreigners – natives of Wuhan, China.
The first discovered local cluster reported on 4 February was that of a Chinese Medical Hall frequented by tour groups from China. This first cluster also led to the first local transmission of CV19 in Singapore.
The LHL administration’s slow reaction to ban travellers from Wuhan, Hubei only on 29 January – seven days after jurisdictions like Taiwan and even Macau, one of China’s own Special Administrative Region – had proven to be wrong and costly in just a week’s time.
Even the other China’s Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong with the world’s highest daily business travellers from mainland China decided to ban travellers from Wuhan on 26 January, for fear of overwhelming its own medical infrastructures.
As the week wore on, Ms Ho Ching, the spouse of the Prime Minister and CEO of Temasek Holdings may have unwittingly triggered the first of several rounds of panic grocery-buying in Singapore on 7 February when she hinted on a personal Facebook post on 6 February that if the authorities “cannot identify the source, then we would judge that there is no(t) just an isolated case, but a new situation of community spread, an Orange DORSCON (Disease Outbreak Response System Condition ) level.”
This sparked off online calls for the Prime Minister’s wife to be ‘POFMA’ – the Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act that was passed quickly amidst public opposition in the Singapore Parliament on 1 October 2019 and had already been evoked several times since the outbreak of the CV19 to quash online falsehoods that may spark irrational public fears.
Ho Ching was not a member of Singapore’s Government and should not have access to such confidential public health decisions, netizens argued. In the midst of this online debate and panic buying happening at the supermarkets, Gan Kim Yong announced that Singapore will be going into DORSCON Orange – 18 hours after Ho Ching hinted at its possibility in a public Facebook post.
The panic buying continued into the night of 7 February as crowds spent their Friday evening in supermarkets checkout lines across the island state well past midnight. The panic-buying situation continued into the weekend and as the national supermarket chain NTUC Fairprice struggled to replenish their shelves, LHL came onto national TV in the evening to calm nerves in the evening of 8 February.
To allay public fears, he noted how Singapore “went through SARS 17 years ago” and as such, Singapore and Singaporeans are much better prepared to deal with CV19 this time round – medically, logistics supplies-wise and psychologically.
The sound bite sounded true and reassuring, especially if one assumed Singapore population demographics to be the same as when the nation fought off SARS in 2003.
However, any observer of Singapore’s demographics changes over this period will be aware that the LHL’s administration had pursued a national economic growth policy via rapid external population increase.
Singapore’s total population in 2020 had increased by close to 40% over the last 16 years that LHL had been in office as the Prime Minister, from 4.17 million in 2004 to 5.85 million today according to the latest UN data. The official Department of Statistics Singapore stated the total population to be 5.7 million correct as at June last year (2019).
Given the current citizen population of 3.5 million, of which nearly 10% are new citizenships handed out liberally by the LHL’s administration after the SARS-CoV-1 period, and taking the natural population replacement rate to be neutral during these 16 years (300,000 citizens deaths replaced by 300,000 citizens birth over 16 years); it can be safely estimated that more than 50% of Singapore’s population today have not lived through SARS-CoV-1 in 2003.
A sobering thought for the savvy citizen. So the statement that the population being “better prepared” psychologically could be called into question if more than half of the population in Singapore today had not lived through that dark period in Singapore’s history, just 17 years ago.
Anecdotally from ground reports, the first wave of panic-buying in Singapore seemed to be sparked off by foreigners living in Singapore sharing messages of supermarkets stock-out situation back in their home countries around North Asia.
However the closer truth may be that the panic-buying were probably started by both Singaporeans and foreigners in equal proportion, half of them not understanding the national food stockpile and water supplies security strategies in place and half not trusting the ability of the LHL’s administration to circumvent this epidemic outbreak.
And “better prepared” medically and logistics supplies-wise could also be called into question today too. His words then that “we have stockpiled adequate supplies of masks and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We have expanded and upgraded our medical facilities” sounded empty and instilled little confidence less than a few weeks later.
But perhaps the most harm to Singapore’s fight against CV19 was done when LHL again tried to play down the fast-spreading worldwide epidemic a second time in public. LHL declared that “the new virus is much less dangerous than SARS” and that “in terms of mortality, the new virus is much closer to influenza than SARS”.
The playing down from the country’s highest political office holder on 7 February had lasting impacts on the island nation and lulled the whole populace into taking this fast spreading epidemic lightly.
The next day on 8 February, the most deadly pandemic (no puns intended) known in recent human history must have been kind enough to send the LHL’s administration a super early warning on the potential development of mega-clusters of migrant workers living in much closer quarters than the Diamond Princess cruise ship when the first case of a Bangladeshis worker (Patient 42) was reported early as part of the first CV19 wave to hit Singapore .
As if the first hint was not strong enough to remind the inter-ministerial taskforce not to drop the ball on this one just before Singapore’s next General Elections due by 21 April 2021, another Bangladeshis worker who was staying in a separate dormitory in another part of Singapore, but working at the same site in Seletar Aerospace Heights as Patient 42, was tested positive on 10 February 2020.
The duo were also known to the authorities to have visited Mustafa Centre – a budget shopping mall and centre point of social congregation, massively popular with migrant blue-collared workers – 293,300 construction workers and 261,800 domestic workers (MOM’s December 2019 data) – from all over Singapore on the weekends.
A third worker working at the same site, but staying at yet another separate location – a non-dormitory resident staying at a rented apartment in the community – from the first two was also tested positive on 12 February. If the first two cases were missed, this third case should have raised alarm bells in the LHL’s administration. But sadly, it did apparently not until it was too late.
The trio were labourers from a close-knitted foreign labour community who provided the low-cost manpower to literally build up Singapore and provide essential service like refuse disposal and environmental hygiene.
The majority of these workers were housed in some 43 dormitories spread across the island, with the largest being a 24,000-bed facility.
From information revealed recently, MOM, the Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo and Co-chairman of the CV19 inter-ministerial taskforce Lawrence Wong seemed to be aware of the cramped and poor hygienic conditions that some of these workers were housed in when both made a surprise visit to Tuas View Dormitory on 6 February – two days before the announcement of Patient 42 – to inspect the dormitory's hastily prepared isolation room and a LOA facility with 32 beds.
In a later Facebook post on 6 April, Josephine Teo let slip that “each time we attempt to raise standards (of worker’s dormitories), employers yelp”. Complicit or otherwise, Josephine Teo showed she knew about the dire conditions of these dormitories way before the outbreak of CV19 in Singapore.
As a member of the inter-ministerial taskforce, valid questions were asked online if she had warned her colleagues of the potential mass cross-infection that could happen at those dormitories. Online chatters also questioned if she and her ministry chose to play down the issue from the outset in February 2020.
Fact remained and was reported by the mainstream media that when other workers from the same Kaki Bukit dormitory that Patient 42 was staying at were told to stay away from work by their employers on 10 February amid worries that they could be sick and infectious, the MOM quickly responded in the same evening that there is no necessity to do so.
The government officials, perhaps aware of their top echelons’ desire not to disrupt the economy and GDP growth of the country rationalized that those workers who had come into close contact in the same bedroom with the 39 years old worker have already been quarantined (reported to be 10 roommates of Patient 42 and eight people who took the same company transport).
MOH, concurred with MOM and the Singapore Contractors Association were told that they can continue with business as usual on the same day.
In a later POFMA clarification published on 5 July – 5 days before Singapore’s GE Polling Day, MOH and MOM added that “decisions made on the management of foreign workers and advisories, including the decision to issue the above MOM advisory to employers, were guided by MOH and its medical professionals, based on the prevailing scientific evidence and local situation.”
Ironically, in the coming days as more Bangladeshi workers from various dormitories were tested positive, it was the workers and their employers themselves – people with first-hand experience of their own cramped living quarters – who were worried of contacting CV19 from the positive cases in their dormitories.
Understandably, the workers had legitimate concerns and did the responsible thing by heading to hospitals and clinics to seek testing, so that they can be given a clean bill of health to continue to provide their services – essential or otherwise – to Singapore.
However in another irresponsible and myopic move in the opinion of many, MOM warned employers not to send their workers to hospitals unless there is a medical emergency, after reports surfaced that employers were dropping their seemingly healthy workers off at public hospitals to have them tested for CV19.
In an advisory dated 19 Feb, MOM advised employers not to send their workers who were healthy for testing, so as “to ensure that medical facilities and resources were focused on unwell individuals who needed medical treatment.”
Kevin Teoh, divisional director of MOM's foreign manpower management division, also highlighted in the same advisory that “if the worker is unwell, employers should send him to a general practitioner to seek medical attention, who will make a proper assessment on whether the worker needs to be sent to the hospital."
He ended the statement with "employers who act irresponsibly by misusing medical facilities may have their work pass privileges suspended".
Subsequently in the 5 July’s POFMA clarification, MOM also noted that “this advice was again based on the prevailing scientific evidence at that time and was also in line with MOH's risk based approach to prioritise testing and care for those who were of high risk.”
These are reasonable rationalizations – both the dated and the recent POFMA ones; but it begs the question how anyone, including medical professionals from GPs to seasoned epidemiologists, could determine if a seemingly healthy-looking individual is SARS-CoV-2 free and truly well in the absence of a scientific CV19 test?
Again, this was unforgivable in the opinions of many because by February 2020, there were already numerous medical research papers coming out of China about the presumed asymptomatic carrier transmission of CV19.
In any epidemic outbreak, isn’t it prudent and more sensible to err on the safe side? To apply simple logic and basic epidemiology knowledge or wait for scientific evidence to surface?
The final decisions made reflected on the decision-makers’ priorities and judgement abilities, regardless of any “prevailing scientific evidence” there may or may not be discovered yet.
Like the implementation of the Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPC) system during the CV19 epidemic, this was simply another ill-thought through act of ‘kicking the can down the road’ and effectively closed out perhaps the last window of opportunity the LHL’s administration have had to cut off the mega-clusters at the workers’ dormitories.
Earlier on 10 February, four Singaporean senior medical practitioners, who went through the SARS-CoV-1 period, lived up to their Hippocratic Oath of “First do no harm” by penning an open health advisory to the nation, advocating a 2M-maxim: ‘wear Mask, stop Mingling’.
The quartet who were classmates at medical school in Singapore insisted that they were not trying to "disclaim" the LHL administration’s management of the CV19 situation, but felt the professional need to disseminate such a public health message.
Faster than it took the administration to decide to ban all travellers from China on 1 February, within 48 hours, the newly minted Director of Medical Services Kenneth Mak on 12 February responded obliquely to the good doctors’ advice by saying that “there is no established evidence that in the open, this virus spreads by the air, or aerosolization” and that wearing a mask is “not” the “most important” thing to do to keep the coronavirus at bay.
In yet another controversial move on 15 February, MOH activated the Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs), ostensibly to better detect and manage the spread of CV19 as the infection curve steepen for three days continuously from 12-14 February and started to stress the public health infrastructures.
The PHPC system had been deployed successfully during the haze periods in Singapore when there’s a surge of patients with respiratory symptoms. The PHPC system alleviates the stress on the public health infrastructures. However, the key difference between the annual smog situation in Singapore and CV19 is that the former is non-infectious and causes respiratory conditions that is treatable with adequate rest indoors, whilst the latter is a proven fatal and contagious disease with a high R-naught.
The decentralize medical care system would work in the fight against CV19 if the PHPC doctors were given the mandate to conduct compulsory CV19 tests on suspected patients presented before them. However, doctors at all clinics, even those not designated as a PHPC, have been advised then to give five days of sick leave to patients with such respiratory symptoms.
Not a 5-day quarantine, not a Stay-Home Notice but 5 days of medical leave that allows one to move about in one’s house with other members of the family and no restrictions from the outset (until 25 March) to go into the community for food or grocery-shopping!
More than a month later on 25 March, the Infectious Diseases Act was updated to state that any individual who receives a medical certificate (MC) for acute respiratory symptoms must not leave his or her place of accommodation for a period of five days, starting from the day that the MC is issued. Those who do, except to seek medical attention may be fined up to $10,000 or jailed up to six months, or both.
No mandatory testing of suspected patients showing symptoms is already bad enough; but to allow these suspected patients to go back home into the community for five days is just like an ostrich sticking its head into the sand, hoping that the virus – even if just merely suspected in the absence of any tests done – will not spread and the danger will just go away after the end of the five days medical leave period.
During the last Global Financial Crisis 2007-08, the term “kicking the can down the road” was coined to describe the governments of the world putting off confronting a difficult issue at the moment only to make the problem much bigger and more insurmountable later on.
The LHL’s administration initial implementation of the PHPC system against CV19 is the perfect epitome of ‘kicking the can down the road’ with perhaps the perfect embodiment of the effects being the outbreak of the first big-cluster in Singapore at the SAFRA Jurong dinner events where many CV19 patients who sang karaoke with one another at various locations across Singapore seek medical treatment early but were allowed to return back to their community on 5 days medical leave.
The most telling signs of the failure of the LHL’s administration implementation of the PHPC is that many of the 47 or so CV19 patients from this cluster were only tested, confirmed and treated more than 7-10 days after the event itself when in the first place, several of them already seek medical attention as early as 1-3 days after the event on 15 February.
So at least 55 CV19 patients from this cluster could have been walking around the community, spreading the disease, albeit unknowingly until its first discovery on 6 March.
Officially, the last known linked case from this cluster was confirmed on 15 March – a full 30 days after the community singing dinner itself which could have been cancelled if the LHL’s administration had acted decisively at the national level and thought through strategically enough.
By 29 February – 37 days after the first case, Singapore’s CV19 cases passed the century mark. By then, MOH Singapore has also mysteriously halted the daily publication of the total numbers of CV19 tests that were administered. One of the last published counts on 21 February showed Singapore had only conducted a total of 1,261 tests by that date.
This was done against the backdrop of the rest of the world conducting mass-testing to identify even the asymptomatic cases, so as to isolate them from the community. South Korea reeling from a slow initial start against CV19, was on a testing blitz, administering 3,000 to 10,000 tests per day.
It was playing catch-up after the Shincheonji Church of Jesus cluster multiplied its CV19 cases by 180-fold in a two-week span. With even a population that is nine times that of Singapore, community mass testing had proved to be possible and working for South Korea.
By 17 March, the CV19 situation in South Korea was contained as it reported only 74 new cases, down from the peak of 909 cases on 29 February. And it has done so without locking down entire cities or taking some of the other authoritarian measures. New case numbers are declining largely because the herculean effort to investigate the massive Shincheonji cluster of some 5000 cases.
South Korea’s experience shows that “diagnostic capacity at scale is key to epidemic control” together with “contact tracing is also very influential in epidemic control, as is case isolation” according to Raina MacIntyre, an emerging infectious disease scholar at the University of New South Wales, Australia.
At that point, Singapore was only doing one of these three key infectious disease intervention well enough.
Last edited by Savantrainmaker; 08-07-2020 at 12:54 AM..
|07-07-2020, 11:09 PM||#8|
Join Date: May 2012
Part 7 of 10:
March 2020 – LHL: “Consider a staycation”, Singapore “cannot completely shut ourselves from the world” and “only wear masks when unwell”, #jalanjalan.
As the numbers of foreign tourists in Singapore dwindled and the local tourist industry was not hitting its annual GDP targets, the Prime Minister bizarrely decided to write a Facebook post on 2 March to encourage citizens to head out of their home to visit local attractions like Jewel Changi Airport, a pet project he mooted and spent S$1.7 billion to complete in 2019.
And as the rest of the world was locking down, banning tourists and urging their people to stay at home and work from home, LHL was encouraging citizens to “consider a staycation at a local hotel”. Accompanying his post #jalanjalan (walkabout in the Malay language), he even posted pictures of his bird-watching outing at the Jurong Bird Park, done ironically “a few weekends back”.
On 5 March – 36 days after the first travel ban on Hubei passports, Singapore finally decided to expand its entry restrictions to bar visitors who have travelled to South Korea, Iran or northern Italy within the past 14 days, as CV19 spread westwards to the rest of the world.
Singaporeans, permanent residents with foreign passports and long-term pass holders who have been to these CV19-hit areas in the past 14 days will still allowed in, but will be served with a 14-day stay-home notice. This was seen as another slow move by the LHL’s administration as by then CV19 cases at these places have already exploded with the numbers of deaths surging.
On 9 March, the LHL’s administration realized that they had failed to anticipate another loophole which they in all probability cluelessly opened on 12 February, when they decided the Singapore’s taxpayers will be footing the hospital bills of all CV19 patients in public hospitals without closing its borders, especially those with the neighbouring countries.
This led to a surge of foreign ‘medical tourists’ who flooded into Singapore to seek or pre-empt their need for CV19 medical care; some even flying in by private jets.
In a rare roll-back move that involved retrospective implementation, they announced on 9 March that those foreign short-term visitors who entered Singapore two days earlier, from 7 March onwards will need to pay for their own CV19 hospital bills.
On 10 March, Gan Kim Yong briefed reporters at a CV19 press conference of his taskforce findings, sharing that “many of the recent cases were transmitted during social activities and gatherings among our seniors, many of them participate in singing classes and other activities such as qigong, line dancing and others at the various community clubs and residence committees venues”.
Then bizarrely, he started to lament that despite the government’s best efforts to encourage “Singaporeans regardless of age to practice good personal hygiene and to be socially responsible” he was “very concerned that many of the locally transmitted case resulted from the socially irresponsible actions of a few individuals who continued to go to work, attend events and participate in activities despite being unwell”;
When in the first place it was the People’s Association (PA) – a government agency chaired by the Prime Minister himself – that did not cancel mass-events like Chingay 2020 and its frequent and weekly resident’s committee events like karaoke group singing sessions and grassroots visits, often with entourages in tow.
When WHO declared CV19 to be a pandemic on 12 March 2020, and placing Europe as the centre of the pandemic with more than 20,000 cases and 1,000 deaths, LHL again came onto national TV during the prime-time slot.
This time, after this first address to the nation on 7 February, LHL opted to convey his message in a more serious tone. Instead of sitting on a comfortable chair, he was standing on his feet this time round and the relax open-collar shirt has given way to a neatly-pressed pink shirt and matching tie. A pair of glasses was added and he spoke behind a rostrum with the Singapore’s coat-of-arms in front to add a tad more seriousness and authority.
Not surprisingly so since the numbers of CV19 cases in Singapore has quintuple in just 34 days!
By then CV19 had also spread like wildfire further westwards to Europe and into the Americas and the people of Singapore had been demanding that the LHL’s administration close its borders except for returning citizens and permanent residents with foreign passports and long-term pass holders.
It was a golden opportunity to ride on the population’s rising apprehension and fear about CV19 and get the whole nation serious with stricter measures like restricting travels and enforcing proven virus-prevention measures like mass-testing, masks-wearing and social distancing.
But alas, the Prime Minister lost the golden opportunity to galvanise the nation to take CV19 seriously. Instead he highlighted that WHO and the international community were praising Singapore’s efforts and “held Singapore up as an example to emulate” and he noted “we cannot completely shut ourselves from the world”.
Basking in international accolades and refusing to tighten Singapore’s borders aside, the most damaging bits of his speech perhaps was in the virus-combating strategy that his administration was embarking on.
Their basis was that “we now know that the majority of patients, in fact 80% of them, only experience mild symptoms”; so apparently, the planned strategy was “to hospitalise the serious cases and encourage those with mild symptoms to see their family GP and rest at home – isolate themselves”.
Given numerous medical research papers published by then that the R-naught was between 1.5 – 3.5, LHL administration’s strategy of allowing CV19 patients who are highly contagious to stay at home no matter how mild their symptoms were, was indeed a perfect recipe for community spread.
It was a direct opposite of the GCT administration’s SARS-Cov-1 playbook of strict quarantine for both confirmed cases and even suspected ones.
LHL administration’s plan of sending confirmed CV19 patients back to their homes in the community is most baffling to say the least and risking lives given that we now know even mild cases could escalate to serious conditions needing immediate medical intervention quickly.
And we have not even discussed about how contagious the virus could be and its known fatality rate amongst the elderly patients by that point in time.
LHL further lulled the nation into complacency when he described how gratified he was that “people accepted our reassurances, and changed their behaviour” to follow his administration’s direct appeals to “only wear masks when unwell”.
After the Chinese New Year period in early February 2020, Singaporeans had found the country to be emptied of the CV19 shielding surgical masks that used to retail at local pharmacies for $5 per pack of 50 pieces in spite of numerous LHL’s administration’s public assurances and media photo ops that they had sufficient masks for everyone.
Notwithstanding, Singaporeans then were still willing to fork out the average $30 - $50 for a pack from online shops or from unethical scalpers.
LHL’s address on 12 March probably halted Singaporeans’ nascent mask-wearing culture in its tracks as there were numerous anecdotal reports of healthy people being ostracised and regarded as sick when they decided to don on masks to protect themselves from catching CV19 in the public.
Five days after the speech and without going against LHL’s stance that “we cannot completely shut ourselves from the world”, Singapore began rolling back and started to restrict visitors from ASEAN, Japan, Switzerland and the UK requiring them to serve a 14-day SHN upon arrival in Singapore.
It was a half-hearted measure that was particularly hard to implement on the ground by frontline immigration officers. Singapore was still refusing to shut its doors, ostensibly trying hard to toe the Prime Minister’s previous reiterations that Singapore “cannot completely shut ourselves from the world”.
Then out of the blue, barely four days later on 21 March, they made the complete U-turn to ban visitors from ASEAN, Japan, Switzerland and the UK, while requiring the rest of the world to serve a 14-day SHN at their own chosen location upon arrival.
Another interesting point to note is that whilst CV19 success places like Taiwan mandated that incoming travellers who are served the 14-day quarantine can only commute back from the airport via designated ‘pandemic-control’ taxis, incoming travellers to Singapore served with the 14-day SHN were free to choose their own mode of public transport – taxi, buses, and trains.
On 24 March, the LHL’s administration made yet another new U-turn decision to ban all visitors from entering or transiting through Singapore, barely a fortnight after the very public, loud and affirmative 12 March reiteration that Singapore “cannot completely shut ourselves from the world”.
This last-minute and sudden reversal from the previous public stance without warning caught many – both local and foreigners alike – by surprise.
Many incoming and outgoing business trips which were planned on the basis of the Prime Minister’s assurances a fortnight ago had to be cancelled at the last-minute or postponed indefinitely. Had the LHL’s administration been more foresighted or just less arrogant and more prudent, the business community need not have had wasted so much unnecessary time and business expenses.
In a separate overseas development earlier on 16 March, the newly sworn-in Malaysia’s eighth Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin showed why he indeed has the mettle in him after wrestling power from the venerable Tun Mahathir Mohamad, when he evoked the movement control order (MCO) throughout Malaysia with effect two days later on 18 March 2020.
Internal politics consideration aside, this was indeed a very bold and decisive move made by Muhyiddin as the number of CV19 cases started to rise. This decision proved to be instrumental in controlling the spread of CV19 across Malaysia after a 16,000-people religious event held at its capital which ended in early March was identified as Malaysia’s largest cluster till date.
Despite blasting on social media some two weeks ago about how “very good” and close the bilateral relationship between Singapore and Malaysia is and that "both prime ministers reaffirmed the substantive and broad-based cooperation shared by Singapore and Malaysia, and looked forward to working together for continued mutual benefit"; the LHL’s administration seemed to be blindsided like a deer caught in the headlights when Malaysia unilaterally made the MCO announcement on 16 March.
Foreign labour and food import dependent Singapore seemed to have been dealt as sudden blow to both its labour and food supplies across the Causeway overnight and without warning.
The next day on 17 March, in rare lightning speed efficiency that few Singaporeans could say they experience when they themselves were facing employment problems inside their own homeland; Singapore’s Manpower Minister Josephine Teo announced that Singapore will be giving S$50 per night lodging subsidies for 14 nights to firms for each of the Malaysian workers affected by the lockdown in Malaysia.
With an estimated 300,000 affected Malaysian workers streaming into Singapore in a short span of 48 hours, this was an S$210 million policy decision made just overnight.
Any time besides a pandemic season, this free subsidy of S$700 per foreigner taken out from Singapore’s coffers could be spin into in an act of swift and decisive decision to secure and safeguard the continual functioning of Singapore’s economy.
However what happened to the MOH/MOM stance stated in the 5 July POFMA clarification that their decisions were “made based on the prevailing scientific evidence and local situation.”
Wasn’t it just five days earlier on 12 March that WHO had declared CV19 to be a global pandemic and advised nations to take the necessary national precautions to contain the spread in order to protect their citizens?
Any national policy makers around the world who took their citizens’ health and safety seriously and had proclaimed that they had been preparing 17 years diligently for such an outbreak after SARS-Cov-1 would have been able to have at least pulled out the crudest of list that differentiated between the essential workers that the Singapore economy needs in times of crisis and the ones that it could do without immediately for two to four weeks (the duration of Malaysia’s first MCO announcement).
Taxpayers’ monies spent aside, the abrupt admittance of some 300,000 foreign non-resident workers regardless of the essentiality of the work they perform in Singapore and without proper mass CV19 testing clearance nor proper 14 days quarantine/stay home notice is a real infectious disease nightmare scenario from the medical perspective.
It would yet again be an expensive decision with huge repercussion later on.
Though never publicly admitted by the imperious LHL’s administration, the first CV19 patient that was suspected to have sparked off the massive foreign dormitory workers infection in Singapore was alleged to be Patient 616, a 39-year-old Malaysian man who is a Singapore Work Pass Holder confirmed on 25 March as an imported case who travelled in from Malaysia.
On official records, Patient 616 was the earliest patient linked to the Mustafa Centre cluster announced later on 2 April. It was also that same fateful day that confirmed CV19 cases in Singapore surged past 1,000 cases in just ten weeks since the first CV19 case was confirmed on 23 Jan.
To date, the Mustafa Centre cluster with at least 129 official cases remains the largest community cluster in Singapore and was hypothesised to be the fons et origo that was responsible for the 45,000-plus and ever growing CV19 cases across the various foreign workers’ dormitories in Singapore today.
Given the lacklustre CV19 crisis management till then and the ensuing loss of trust in the LHL’s administration, Malaysia’s MCO announcement sparked off a second wave of panic grocery buying across Singapore on 17 March. Despite the next DPM-designate, urging the public not to panic buy, the wave of groceries grabbing ensued and netizens’ in situ pictures showed stock-outs grocer’s shelves across the island.
This led to an unprecedented move by the nation’s biggest grocer chain, NTUC FairPrice to limit the maximum buys per consumer on food staples like eggs, rice, instant noodles, vegetables and poultry as well as daily essentials like tissue and toilet paper.
Ten days later on 27 March, struggling to feed an expanded population in the country under LHL administration’s vision to build a consumption-economy of circa 6.9 million beyond 2030, NTUC FairPrice expanded its maximum-buy list to include canned food, cooking oil, frozen meat and further reduced the purchasing limits for paper products.
NTUC FairPrice’s online store together with all other major grocery platforms like Redmart, Cold Storage, Seng Siong and Giant had their servers jammed up as they struggled to meet the demand of Singapore’s now 5.84 million people, 1.67 million of whom were added by the LHL’s administration in just 16 years after SARS-Cov-1.
Another major point of contention that highlighted LHL’s administration utter lack of foresight, indecisiveness and prone to knee-jerk decisions at the last-minute was allowing the traditional one-week school holidays from 14 to 21 March this year to carry on as usual without sensible travel advisory prior its commencement.
This is the traditional period where the circa 420,000 school students, their parents and families would take advantage of the 9-day school break to go for short overseas holidays around the region. One million or more Singapore residents could have travelled overseas from 13 March onwards when classes ended.
Midway through the school break, MOH made the belated travel advisory first on 15 March for Singaporeans to defer all non-essential travels abroad and then again another advisory three days later on 18 March when Singaporeans were finally advised to defer all travel abroad with immediate effect amid a heightened risk of importing CV19 cases into Singapore.
Most ironically of all, it was not until 24 March after the school holidays had ended that MOH made the deterrent announcement that any Singapore resident or long-term pass holder who leaves Singapore from March 27 onwards, “in disregard of the prevailing travel advisories, will be charged unsubsidised rates for their inpatient stay at public hospitals if they are admitted for suspected CV19” upon their return to Singapore.
Had the LHL’s administration just made this decision and announcement a fortnight earlier, they could have stemmed the massive outflow of school holidays travellers and had more time and resources to concentrate on controlling the CV19 cases already within its borders instead of having to worry about the imported cases after the March school holidays.
The official media spin was that the spike in CV19 cases in March was due to overseas Singaporean students on exchange or long-term study returning to Singapore before 27 March. But any critical thinker who understood the relative size of school holidays travellers vis-à-vis overseas students would have been able to point out which is the bigger potential health risk to Singapore.
By that stage as the rest of the world were already in lock down modes with even far far away New Zealand at the corner of the globe imposing full and decisive lockdown measures from 23 March; Singaporeans and its residents alike were clamouring for more resolute CV19 containment measures.
However, the LHL’s administration decided otherwise and was still adopting a wait-and-see and one-step-at-a-time approach. It was still picking and choosing its battlegrounds with CV19 as if the virus is as obedient and pliant as its citizens.
On 20 March, MOH announced that with immediate effect till 30 June, restaurants, entertainment outlets like cinemas/theatres, theme parks, casinos, museums etc. need to limit their capacity and adopt social-distancing measures like alternate seating to maintain at least a metre of social distance amongst patrons.
As these new and sudden rules sunk in, business owners scrambled to make the necessary arrangement so that they could continue to operate albeit on reduced capacities. Alas, after they have spent monies to erect barriers and provide for alternate seating arrangement, the LHL’s administration announced on 24 March that it will be closing entertainment outlets like bars, nightclubs, cinemas etc. for one month from 27 March until 26 April.
Not only was the planning efforts and resources of these businesses wasted in less than a week, this triggered a wave of one-last-night parties on 25 and 26 March as revellers went out in droves to savour their last public drinks and parties.
Critics highlighted that the LHL’s administration should have shown more mettle by announcing for immediate close downs of these outlets instead of allowing the SARS-CoV-2 two more nights to roam free at mass entertainment outlets where body fluids exchange with random strangers were the norm.
Another point of contention of these entertainment outlet owners was that casinos like the Marina Bay Sands and Resort World Sentosa were still allowed to be opened with restrictions after 27 March.
Ostensibly, the LHL’s administration had opted for a death by a thousand cuts approach, hoping that by taking pot-shots at the crafty virus by closing down selected parts of the economy, it would somehow suck the air out of it.
This is compared to an instant death and resurrection approach undertook by so many other governments around the world to lock down decisively once and for all and then focus on planning for economic revival at a later stage after the SARS-CoV-2 has been defeated within their borders.
Last edited by Savantrainmaker; 08-07-2020 at 02:20 AM..
|07-07-2020, 11:10 PM||#9|
Join Date: May 2012
Part 8 of 10:
April 2020 – ‘Circuit breaker’, the half-hearted lockdown, finally? No, it’s conceptualized and named by an electrical engineer, the Health Minister.
On 3 April, after confirmed CV19 cases in Singapore surged past 1,000 cases in just one month from a 100; and as if his administration had the forewarning that the Mustafa Centre cluster is about to foment the massive spread among foreign workers’ dormitories all across the island-state, LHL again came onto national TV to deliver a third national CV19 address in less than two months.
Singapore has finally decided to go into a national lockdown, albeit a soft one which the health minister, an electrical engineer by training coined as “circuit breaker”.
The soft lockdown of the island-state from 7 April to 4 May entailed the closing of most workplaces, except for essential services and key economic sectors such as food establishments, markets, supermarkets, clinics, hospitals, utilities, transport and essential banking services will be kept open.
Going into lockdown with more than 1,000 cases was too little too late to some critics who have pointed out that countries with similar demographics like New Zealand and Taiwan were fast and agile in their CV19 responses, locking down without hesitation when they only have less than 100 cases.
Those countries which locked down early and close their borders decisively were later proved to emerge lesser scathed both medically and economically.
Nonetheless, perhaps the mother of all U-turns in Singapore’s CV19 battle was made when LHL announced that his administration “will no longer discourage people from wearing masks.” In the same national address on 3 April.
Adding what many with basic common sense already know, “Wearing a mask may help to protect others, in case you have the virus but don’t know it. This is so that you keep your droplets to yourself - when you sneeze or speak or cough. It can also protect yourself a little better, especially if you are elderly, or vulnerable because of pre-existing health conditions.”
For close to three months since the outbreak of CV19, the LHL’s administration had actively discouraged the entire nation from wearing a mask with the slogan, “Do Not Wear A Mask If You Are Well”.
As early as January 2020, when the still unknown and unnamed novel coronavirus was reported to be spreading around the world, some online anecdotes indicated that there was disquiet about masks wearing amongst Singapore’s Immigration and Checkpoint (ICA) officers and airport police facing thousands of international travellers daily.
Their alleged grievance was that they were discouraged or “not allowed” to wear masks when performing their frontline duties. The claims were that frontline immigration officers were instructed not to wear masks while processing visitors at the immigration counters to portray a positive image to visitors entering the country and “not to alarm the public unnecessarily”.
These allegations at the onset of an epidemic outbreak were deemed real and serious enough for the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to clarify the issue at least twice in public.
On 31 January, MHA clarified with the media that frontline ICA officers are not required to wear surgical masks because “the risk of infection from such transient contact is assessed to be low.” and “The health authorities generally define the level of close contact that is necessary for virus transmission as an exposure of at least 30 minutes within two metres of an infected person”.
However, when juxtaposed against the nearby masked-up temperature screeners who had lesser contact and exposure duration to each traveller, MHA’s logic gap must have been large enough for the Minister of Home Affairs K Shanmugam to clarify again the next day that “there has been a misunderstanding. If you are not well, then you shouldn’t even be there,” adding that officers on duty could wear face masks if they felt the need to do so.
Notwithstanding the Minister’s public approval for ICA officers to don on protective masks when performing their frontline duties, ICA officers at the various checkpoints as late as March 2020 were observed not to be donning masks when performing their frontline duties to protect themselves and the public. Perhaps the efficient and obedient civil service officers were heeding the public health advice - “Do Not Wear A Mask If You Are Well” – which was still very much in effect then.
For close to three months, taxpayers’ dollars were spent to promulgate this short-sighted and ill thought through public health message, in Singapore’s mass medias – both print and broadcast. Popular local actors were even engaged to make a number of TV clips in all of Singapore’s official languages to discourage the populace from wearing masks.
Its effectiveness must have rivalled the island-state previous successful Speak Mandarin and Courtesy campaigns.
So much so that when the LHL’s administration made the U-turn on mask-wearing in mid-April 2020, taxpayers’ monies need to be spent again to employ thousands of ‘Safe Distance Ambassadors’ (SDAs) to educate and enforce the new rule of compulsory mask-wearing when out of one’s home.
Declaring that “the spirit of these measures is to get all of us to minimise physical contact” LHL further added that “If we do not go out, if we avoid contact with others, then the virus will not be able to spread. It is as simple as that.”
However, the execution of Singapore’s initial 4-week circuit breaker from 7 April to 4 May was far from simple nor straight forward for both Singaporeans to comprehend and comply as well as the civil servants and contract workers on the ground to enforce effectively.
On the same issue of mask-wearing, when LHL announced that masks-wearing was “no longer discourage” on 3 April, his administration did not make it compulsory either.
So for at least a good week, people out in the streets without masks were curiously staring at those who were donning a mask, half-wondering to themselves if they had interpreted the 3 April announcement wrongly and if they had broken the rules.
On 9 April, the Land Transport Authority issued an advisory to encourage commuters to wear a mask when on public transport, without making it mandatory.
Then a day later, on 10 April, wet market patrons were first urged to wear a mask when visiting a list of 40 wet markets managed by the National Environment Agency across the island. Mask-wearing at all NEA-managed markets was to be made compulsory later on 12 April.
On 11 April, Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced that all customers visiting supermarkets, convenience stores, pharmacies and shopping malls must wear masks from 12 April onwards, or they will be refused entry. They explained that this is to safeguard the shoppers’ own health and well-being, as well as that of other customers and staff working at these premises.
On that same day, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, perhaps caught out by the slew of compulsory masks-wearing announcements by the various government agencies took to Facebook to note, “I think a practical compromise is for all commuters to wear masks when they use public transport. We will make mask-wearing compulsory for public transport. This will minimise transmission in public transport during post-CB period when safe distancing is compromised. To prepare for this, we will get commuters to wear masks, NOW, when using public transport.”
So the various agencies in the LHL’s administration took cue from one another’s public announcement of compulsory mask-wearing to make their own mask-wearing policy.
Perhaps also taking cue from these individual mask-wearing developments initiated by the various government agencies, the MTF on 14 April came up with the new rule that one must wear a mask when you step out of your home, with the exceptions for children below the age of two and those doing strenuous exercise.
By 17 April, ten days after the start of the circuit breaker, a S$300 fine was imposed in lieu of a written warning for any first offenders who failed to wear a mask in the public. What happened to Singapore’s previous renowned international reputation for far-sighted and hard-headed planning and decision-making?
Had the Prime Minister just spent the effort and make a conclusive announcement in his 3 April national address to make mask-wearing compulsory from Day One of Singapore’s circuit breaker; thousands of civil service manhours and resources spent by the various agencies to study and formulate their own mask-wearing directives could have been better directed to tackling the virus instead of uncoordinated mask-wearing rules set up in silos that confused both the public and government enforcers on the ground alike.
Instead LHL chose to spend his efforts to pose for pictures of himself chairing a masked-up cabinet meeting with different cabinet members donning different types of masks from government-issued to home-made cloth masks that he proudly posted on Facebook on 8 April.
Perhaps even top-level government officials cannot get their hands on the proper protective masks or maybe they were just eager to promote the government-issued masks. Regardless, the efficacy of these cloth masks in protecting users from the CV19 virus is much lower than the proven medical-grade surgical and N95 masks.
Nonetheless, the LHL’s administration had spent considerable efforts and resources to source for the at least three types of cloth and foam masks of varying quality for all of the 5.84 million inhabitants on the island.
It then begs the question why did the LHL’s administration have to wait until 5 April – more than 10 weeks after the first CV19 case was announced in Singapore – to start issuing cloth masks and encouraging the population to wear them?
Never mind that the million dollars per annum ministers did not have the foresight to stockpile sufficient medical-grade masks when global prices were low and international supplies plentiful.
Never mind that the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) did not pick up on industry’s reports of panic buying and stock-out situations at island-wide pharmacy chains like Guardian, Unity, and Watsons.
And never mind that MTI did not act quickly to ban the exports of these essential medical supplies when the country needed them the most.
Whilst it is understandable that medical grade personal protective equipment like surgical and N95 masks may not be readily available to Singapore at the onset of the global pandemic; it is not forgivable to ask the population to don on the cloth masks so late in an epidemic, especially when unlike surgical nor N95 masks, there were no acute shortage of these masks on the market earlier in March, February or even January 2020.
Worse, on 8 April, it got the women’s wings and used public congeniality faces like Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development Sun Xueling and MP Foo Mee Har to promote a ‘Masks Sewn with Love’ project. It was a campaign to encourage mothers and grandmothers in the community to start sewing a targeted 50,000 masks at home with readily available cloth fabric.
Could they not have started this national sewing mobilization earlier in January, February or March?
All these bears the ‘too little too late’ hallmarks of the LHL’s administration when dealing with the national crisis of a lifetime and other matters pertaining to citizens’ welfare and concerns.
The implementation of the circuit breaker starting from 7 April was also not simple nor clear to understand. The LHL’s administration had allowed outdoor exercise during the circuit breaker period. However, the thought-thorough was non-existent and implementation was haphazard to say the least.
Since all malls and entertainment outlets were close from 7 April, the population started to head outdoors, going to the nearest open-air stadiums for their dose of endorphins. These led quickly to unmanageable and over-crowding situations across these stadiums, resulting in another last-minute U-turn to close off these stadiums on 10 April, barely three days into the circuit breaker.
Then when the crowds headed to the next popular available outdoor location – the beaches; they were then ordered to close on 12 April.
Where were the foresight and thorough thought through that previous Singapore’s administrations under Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong that Singapore was known for?
And to note, the LHL’s administration is the most expensive government that Singaporean taxpayers have had to pay for since its independence in 1965.
At this point it is also important to be able to differentiate the still effective civil service and honest-working civil servants from Singapore’s political leaders. Loyalty to country is patriotic, loyalty to party is not patriotism.
Notwithstanding, the greatest irony of the first phase of the circuit breaker have to be reserved for the LHL administration’s mind baffling decision-making processes.
One example of which is when determining what sort of business can be opened or have to be closed, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce had deemed that dessert and bubble tea stores were essential businesses to be kept open whilst traditional medicine shops had to be closed.
So the LHL’s administration had used their collective judgement prowess to decide that desserts and sweet teas that attracted long human queues were essential during a global pandemic whilst traditional herbal medicine providing illness reliefs and chronic pain management were not?
Of course, by then a policy U-turn could be expected. Not a question of whether, but when.
Sure enough, it came on 21 April – a fortnight into the circuit breaker, the MTI announced that dessert and bubble tea stores had to be closed by midnight the same day. So those stores that bought a month supplies of raw materials to cater to the nation’s sweet-tooth for the duration of the first announced month-long circuit breaker were probably left with half their ingredients unused.
Or maybe not, as crowds of tens and hundreds formed for hours non-stop after the announcement at these bubble tea stores across the island just before the midnight deadline. A unique scene no doubt at the height of a global pandemic in Singapore, created no less by LHL administration’s constant inconsistencies.
Next day, the LHL’s administration implemented a belated but correct decision to stagger crowds by limiting access to four popular markets based on the last digit (odd or even) of their identification cards. Crowds at these markets were halved overnight.
Perhaps learning from the queue management system of more successful jurisdictions or perhaps common sense came to them after a fortnight. It was a good and sound rule that just came two weeks late. The risk exposure to those market communities could have been cut by half, 14 days earlier by a simple decision like this.
The non-stop series of micro steps and policies back-rolling every few days during the circuit breaker period was confusing and frustrating both to the populace and businesses; and most probably civil servants and contract workers enforcing the rules on the ground.
Not surprisingly, given the lack of decisiveness and non-stop U-turns, the first two weeks of Singapore’s circuit breaker was ineffective in ‘flattening the curve’ as cases surged past 9,000 and raced towards the 10,000 mark, clocking daily 4-figure infection cases by then.
The numbers were getting mind-boggling since Singapore only had officially detected a couple of hundred cases just a month ago!
So barely a fortnight after the start of the first one-month softcore national lockdown, LHL had to appear on national TV reluctantly again on 21 April to announce that Singapore’s circuit breaker had to be extended four more weeks until 1 June, beyond the initially planned end date of 4 May.
This unexpected extension of the circuit breaker threw the back-to-work plans of the people and businesses off yet again. Juxtaposed against its Asian competitors like Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea, Vietnam which were seeing success in their CV19 efforts and restarting their economic activities, Singapore’s economy will still be stuck in the backwaters for at least six more weeks.
But this is the least of the Singapore’s CV19 challenges by that point.
Underneath LHL’s calm blue business shirt and matching tie during the TV announcement, his administration is now paddling in panic mode. Singapore’s hospital system is facing a severe bed crunch and in danger of being overrun by the 9,000-plus and rapidly increasing CV19 patients.
Despite fanatically adding three new public hospitals and increasing hospital beds by at least 25% since 2010, Singapore’s hospital system was already stretched pre-CV19 with an aging native population and ever-increasing imported population.
Under LHL’s administration economic strategy via ponzi-like non-organic population growth, Singapore had seen its total population ballooned by 40% in just 16 years, with about 100,000 foreigners being added on the average in each of the last 16 years.
At this rate, the LHL’s administration is clearly on track to hit the legendary 6.9 million population ‘planning parameter’ by 2030, stated in Singapore’s 2013 Population White Paper since another decade of adding 100,000 per year non-stop would add one million more people to Singapore current 2020’s population.
Now with the CV19 infections raging, Singapore is in real danger of running out of beds at its acute hospitals.
Mega-event exhibition venues like the Singapore Expo, Changi Airshow Exhibition Centre and even large plots of empty land at the Tanjong Pagar shipping-container port on the fringe of the city-state’s Central Business District were being hurriedly converted into temporary isolation facilities for the skyrocketing number of CV19 patients.
As land facilities were running out, cruise ships and accommodation ships for offshore oil-rig workers were also roped in. Two of Genting’s cruise ships Superstar Gemini and Superstar Aquarius were used to house recovering CV19 patients while at least two accommodation ships were used to house ‘healthy’ foreign workers providing essential services, in a desperate bid to isolate them from their regular dormitories’ mates.
Throughout the long months of April and May, across all of Singapore, besides sea vessels; military camps, sports halls, vacant public housing blocks in HDB heartlands and even a private estate in Bukit Timah, earmarked for demolishment after en-bloc sale were hastily converted into accommodation facilities to house tens of thousands of ‘healthy’ foreign workers providing essential services in Singapore.
Damage control for LHL administration’s complacency, lack of foresight and indecisiveness in handling the CV19 outbreak was in full-swing nation-wide.
It was felt internationally too. So much so that retired and eminent diplomats like Kishore Mahbubani and Chan Heng Chee were activated to go onto international business TV programmes like Bloomberg and CNBC to explain Singapore’s dismal handing of the CV19 situation to the global audience.
As Kishore admitted that “we could have done a much better job”, he was quick to point out how “unusually tricky and difficult” the new SARS-CoV-2 was compared to SARS-CoV-1, in a bid to explain why the LHL’s administration could not have fully prepared for CV19.
The retired diplomat must not have kept up with international developments or understood that the same international audiences of Bloomberg TV and CNBC would be savvy enough to note that other Asian business hubs like Hong Kong and Taiwan were faring much better in CV19 than SARS 2003 because of decisive and sensible government intervention.
Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee’s explanation on CNBC was equally unconvincing as she attempted to explain that Singapore’s new extensive testing regime meant that more cases will be discovered. It opened up the pandora box for critical viewers to question if the previous reported and any future low official CV19 cases in Singapore was and will be because lesser tests were administered?
Without realizing that she was opening up a can of worms for the LHL administration’s 6.9 million population and ‘foreign talents’ policies, Heng Chee added that “Singapore is the densest city and the densest country in the world, well, barring Monaco” in an attempt to explain why the CV19 numbers in Singapore was so high then.
Perhaps too, she didn’t co-ordinate sufficiently with Kishore who was trying to decouple Singapore’s high CV19 numbers in the workers’ dormitories from those in the community. So another valid question that surfaced was if Singapore were not catering to such a huge foreign-imported population, would it then need so many foreign workers to build up and maintain its massive infrastructures all across the beautiful island-state?
Whatever the case may be, both eminent diplomats whilst trying to explain for Singapore’s dismal handling of the CV19 situation globally, left big questions out in the wide open for the LHL administration’s population and economic policies beyond CV19.
Last edited by Savantrainmaker; 08-07-2020 at 04:19 AM..
|07-07-2020, 11:11 PM||#10|
Join Date: May 2012
Part 9 of 10:
May 2020 – Maybe the LHL Administration’s Finally Prioritising Citizens’ Health & Safety Over Their Own Political Legitimacy, or not.
Just as Singaporeans took comfort that finally the LHL’s administration is shedding its complacency mode. Getting all hands on deck to combat CV19 as one nation one government by May 2020 is still better late than never, as the last of the LHL administration apologists would argue.
Then out of the blue, the nation was dealt a lightning strike.
On 4 May, instead of focusing on how to better overcome the global pandemic of a lifetime, the Singapore parliament passed the Parliamentary Elections (CV19 Special Arrangements) Bill that makes provisions for arrangements to be implemented if the next General Elections were to take place amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It provided for Singaporeans who are on stay-home notices for CV19 with the option to either participate in the elections or not, and also ensuring safety at the yet to be announced General Election which has to be called by 14 April 2021.
The LHL administration’s priorities in a global pandemic was clear as day.
By then, the CV19 cases in Singapore has doubled to above 18,000, barely a fortnight after LHL’s last national address on 21 April. Given its priorities, it is no wonder that the CV19 situation is getting out of hand.
And it is costing Singapore and Singaporeans. S$92.5 billions to be exact, of which S$52 billion will be drawn down from the country's reserves. The spin doctors of the LHL’s administration would be quick to point out that this was an unprecedented move which showed Singapore’s Unity, Resilience, Solidarity and Fortitude in times of this global pandemic.
But any rational persons would note that throwing billions of the Singapore’s reserves painstakingly saved up by previous terms of governments to solve problems caused no less by the current LHL administration’s complacency, incompetence and indecisiveness was nothing to be proud of.
By then, despite Kishore Mahbubani’s and Chan Heng Chee’s Sisyphus efforts on international TV programmes, Singapore had already become the negative poster boy around the world, demonstrating how any country should not be complacent and indecisive when combating CV19.
Major foreign news agencies like ABC, BBC, CNN, SCMP, Nikkei, New York Times around the world all had field days writing editorials narrating and opinion pieces analysing Singapore’s failure in containing the CV19 outbreak in the tiny city-state. Paradoxically, Singapore is “punching above our weight” again in the global arena. Statements that Singapore diplomats loved to use to describe Singapore’s outsize international achievements and heft amongst the global diplomatic community.
News articles with titles like 'Tale of 2 outbreaks: Singapore tackles a costly setback’, ‘Coronavirus: Singapore's migrant workers living in fear', ‘Singapore had a model coronavirus response, then cases spiked. What happened?’, ‘Singapore’s addiction to growth is built on the backs of migrant workers’, ‘Singapore coronavirus clusters awaken Asia to migrants' plight’, ‘A Sudden Coronavirus Surge Brought Out Singapore’s Dark Side’ starkly escaped Singapore’s POFMA laws.
Even the American Democratic Party Presidential candidate, Joe Biden noticed Singapore’s missteps and quipped publicly, “you saw what’s happening in Singapore”, alluding that no country should be complacent against the virus, SARS-Cov-2.
And to no one surprises, Singapore’s two months lockdown were lifted on 2 June, ostensibly for the sake of holding a lighting fast general election to capitalize on the economic uncertainty brought on by CV19 and flight to safety desire of the common-man electorate.
If this was true, the LHL’s administration had indeed placed the prolonging of their own political legitimacy ahead of citizens’ health and safety at the height of an unabated global pandemic, as circulated widely around on online chatters.
|07-07-2020, 11:11 PM||#11|
Join Date: May 2012
Part 10 of 10:
June 2020 – Resolute and Decisive in Gearing up for a GE2020?
By 2 June after Singapore ended its CV19 lockdown, there were already more than 35,000 infected cases recorded in Singapore officially. Besides having the highest number of CV19 infections in Asia outside of the two billion-population countries - China and India, Singapore also found itself not in unfamiliar territory – an international top 10 ranking for countries with the highest CV19 cases per a full million population.
Regrettably, political spin doctors chose to drummed up the LHL administration’s ‘achievement’ that it has had one of the lowest CV19 death rates. Unashamedly, they took the credit away from frontline civil servants, medical care professionals and volunteers who literally risked their lives every day, turning up at work to stand their posts.
It should be the medical care professionals who toiled in sweat in their PPE every day to test, treat and take care of the CV19 patients, who should be recognised, not political leaders formulating myopic CV19 policies that had to be rolled back and were confusing for frontline staff on the ground to implement.
Quack doctors linked to the LHL’s administration who brushed off the good doctors’ well-intentioned advice and the efficacy of masks-wearing at the onset of CV19 infection in Singapore should and must be taken to tasks.
Besides the conspiracy theory that the LHL’s administration was planning to call for a snap election soon after lifting the circuit breaker on 2 June because the overall electoral situation was expected to deteriorate further for the incumbent ruling party in the coming months, there may be a more urgent and valid reason for national schools to be re-opened as quickly as possible after two months of circuit breaker.
The thesis amongst the educators’ circles was that CV19 had showed up the stark digital divide and rich-poor gap in Singapore after 16 years of LHL administration’s GDP-pursuit.
School children from less privileged households with insufficient resources and inadequate IT infrastructures could not keep up with the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) ‘full-time home-based learning (HBL)’ programme.
Anecdotes from salesmen noting resource-rich customers rushing to snap up every available laptops at the various computer outlets for themselves and their children before the start of the circuit breaker were juxtaposed against newspaper reports of children from less privileged families having to take turns sharing laptops/tablets to get online for their HBL, and even less well-to-do families without fibre internet at home have got to resort to mobile Wi-Fi dongles and make do with patchy internet connection to download worksheets and online assignments.
Whatever happened to LHL’s administration 14-year-old Wireless@SG project and promise to put in place “a pervasive Wireless Broadband Network by 2015” that “will offer fast, efficient connectivity to all – in schools, in offices and homes, and even on the move. It will help us plug into the global knowledge grid, and stay competitive with other cities”?
MOE was reported to have loaned out at least 12,500 laptops or tablets, as well as 1,200 Internet-enabling devices, such as Wi-Fi dongles. But it was not mentioned if these numbers were sufficient to meet the needs of all school-going children in Singapore.
Regardless, the efficacy of HBL, it seemed, was assessed to be limited when MOE decided to bring forward the annual month-long mid-term break to start on 5 May, coinciding with the second month of Singapore’s circuit breaker. So school children took their traditional ‘June holidays’ from 5 May to 1 June staying at home and had to be back to school physically for learning from 2 June 2020.
After Phase 1 of Singapore CV19 reopening took place on 2 June and given the ever-rising CV19 cases that continued unabated in the ensuing two weeks, Singaporeans began to wonder if there will be another U-turn.
But instead of announcing another roll-back, the LHL’s administration was resolute in their resolve this time to push for the reopening of Singapore. On 15 June, the MTF announced that they are pressing on with Phase 2 of the reopening four days later.
It was an announcement that caught some people by surprise given the still high CV19 cases whilst others expected it fully, especially when analysed together with the lightning quick passing of the Parliamentary Elections (CV19 Special Arrangements) Bill on 4 May.
On 19 June, Phase 2 of Singapore’s CV19 reopening started in earnest. Phase 2 involved the resumption of “most activities”, subject to the safe distancing principle. Ostensibly, pundits of the Singapore’s General Elections due by 21 April 2021 predicted that the LHL’s administration could and would most probably be calling for the GE during this phase, which could last for months.
Four days into Phase 2 and before most people have the chance to hit the gym and bask in the sun by the pool for the first time in 77 days, LHL dissolved the Singapore parliament on 23 June and called for a snap GE, with Singaporeans heading to the polling booth on 10 July.
The case for complacency and indecisiveness of the LHL’s administration in handling Singapore’s CV19 fight is open and shut as laid out by the timeline of belated decisions, missteps and U-turns above.
Despite LHL’s opination on 30 June that “I would say that in handling COVID-19, the 4G leaders have done very well.”; the ultimate validation of how well Singapore had handled our CV19 situation could perhaps be glean from how other countries and jurisdictions treat international travellers to and from Singapore.
On 1 July, the European Union (EU) lifted travel restrictions a list of 15 countries that were allowed to travel into the Schengen area. Singapore was not amongst the five Asia-Pacific countries – Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand – that were allowed.
If making it to the international top 15 was perhaps a herculean task, Singapore did not make it into the bigger list of 70 countries and territories where holidaymakers can visit without self-isolating for 14 days on their return to the United Kingdom.
Many Asian countries and territories like Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam have been assessed by the Boris Johnson’s administration to be no longer presenting an unacceptably high risk to the British people travelling abroad.
The implications for Singapore and Singaporeans are three-fold. First, business travellers can not yet travel freely from their home countries to Singapore and vice-versa to conduct business activities that are quintessential to reviving Singapore’s economy.
Second, tourists from overseas will not be able to travel to Singapore for leisure any time soon to revive the local tourism, hospitality, retail and F&B industries – key pillars of Singapore’s domestic economy. Third and may not be least important depending on one’s perspective, travel-starved Singaporeans and its residents also could not fly out freely to those European countries for family and social purposes.
Lest we forget. This is our CV19 story for six months in 2020 under the LHL’s administration. Lest we forget. This was when complacency meets indecisiveness. Singapore and Singaporeans have suffered because of the belated decisions, missteps and U-turns. Lest we forget. The final chapters of our CV19 story are yet to be written. As a citizen of our beloved nation you can still decide on how our CV19 story will end.
Whether the LHL’s administration had indeed placed its own political survival and extension of its own quinquennial political legitimacy ahead of citizens’ health and safety by calling for a premature GE at the height of a global pandemic, mismanaged and unabated in Singapore no less, is what you can decide for yourself and have a say on it too, come 10 July 20.
A Singaporean for Singapore and Singaporeans
“I am Singaporean and love Singapore more than any other country in this world; and exactly for this and this reason alone, I insist on the right to criticize her Administration perpetually.”
Last edited by Savantrainmaker; 08-07-2020 at 04:29 AM..
|07-07-2020, 11:14 PM||#12|
Join Date: Aug 2008
Sent from Samsung SM-T295 using GAGT
|07-07-2020, 11:15 PM||#13|
Join Date: Nov 2005
Savantrainmaker shushu :0
|07-07-2020, 11:29 PM||#14|
Join Date: Aug 2003
|07-07-2020, 11:34 PM||#15|
Join Date: Oct 2005
the numbers for infection will likely rise again after GE, TS can prepare another chapter soon to your current analysis
But the half-wit remains a half-wit, and the emperor remains an emperor.
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