Former elections candidate Abdillah Zamzuri has suggested that the authorities may impose a full-blown lockdown after the elections are over, since it did not commit to nationwide COVID-19 testing before lifting the circuit breaker.
The Government has been preparing to hold the next General Election (GE) for some time now. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has been finalising its slate of candidates while the Government formed the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee way back in August 2019.
The EBRC released its recommendations on how the wards should be carved up for the upcoming election in March this year, leading to widespread speculation that an election was set to be called in April 2020. At the time, Singapore was being lauded for its COVID-19 policies that were dubbed as the gold standard for virus prevention in the international community.
Opposition politicians and members of the public urged the Government against holding an election in April and urged the authorities to wait until there are ZERO or single-digit COVID-19 cases in Singapore to protect citizens from the risk of virus transmission at the polls.
Soon after, the COVID situation spun out of control when it started spreading like wildfire in the foreign worker dormitories. The nation now has close to 40,000 total COVID cases and 25 disease-linked fatalities. The PAP Government’s image also took a nosedive, when the many u-turns it took on COVID-19 policies – like asking people not to wear a mask if they are not sick and then later making it mandatory to wear masks – drew scrutiny.
As the number of COVID-19 cases in Singapore rapidly grew, the Government imposed a two-month movement control period but refused to call it a lockdown, like many other nations were calling their movement control orders. The PAP Government instead dubbed its lockdown-style restrictions a “circuit breaker” to stem the spread of coronavirus.
As soon as the two month circuit breaker ended in the beginning of June, the Government began reopening the nation and allowed students to return to school, despite concerns about the risk of transmission among some parents. The authorities did not conduct any nationwide COVID-19 testing before reopening Singapore and the number of community cases rose after the circuit breaker was lifted.
Heavyweight PAP ministers, in the meantime, have hinted that an election is around the corner. Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that there is “not much time” left for the election while Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat urged the people to be prepared for elections that are “coming nearer by the day.”
Mr Heng, who is expected to be Singapore’s next Prime Minister, indicated that the Government wants to get the election over with so it can “rally everybody together” sooner. His comments spurred rumours that an election could be called as early as next month.
Echoing the views of some members of public, Mr Abdillah Zamzuri said that he has a hunch that Singaporeans will need to welcome a full-blown lockdown after the elections, since the Government did not conduct community testing prior to reopening the nation.
Mr Abdillah, a training company manager, was part of the Singapore People’s Party’s (SPP) team contesting Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC in the 2015 GE. Although he has since left the SPP, the Singaporean is still active in opposition politics. In a Facebook post published on Wednesday (10 June), he wrote:
“As I sent my son back to school this morning, I cant help but know/feel that because our government didn’t do community testing prior to Phase 1, we will all need to welcome a lockdown again after the elections.
“This time, probably a full on DORSCON RED escalation and not calling it Circuit Breaker (which was used to slow down, not stop the infections). These are my assumptions but with elections round the corner, it’s impossible not to look at how this vital situation was used as part of a political play.”
Mr Abdillah suggested that the circuit breaker was implemented to sell the perception that the Government knows what it’s doing and to put infrastructure in place to manage large infections after the elections. He added that optics may be the reason why the Government tested groups like the elderly at nursing homes and preschool children “because if this group sees infections and die, people are not going to be happy at all.”
Pointing to the recent COVID-19 cases that arose in public schools after the circuit breaker was lifted, Mr Abdillah said: “With the recent cases in MOE schools, it is obvious that we have a larger pool of infected cases in the community regardless of the viral load or how infectious they are.”
The opposition politician added that community testing is quite feasible in the geographically tiny, densely populated Singapore, where there are systems in place to conduct nationwide testing. Suggesting that the Government could have used its People’s Association arm to conduct widespread testing, he wrote:
“Some will say, how to do community testing? The same way the masks were distributed, through RCs and CCs. Facilities are there and if not, the multi purpose areas are the best areas since it’s open air. The RC and CC rooms can be the green zone areas for rest and donning of the PPEs.
“That’s how it can be done. It may take time because labs are stretched out and swabbers, swab assistants and administrative staff are still being hired and trained, but it can be done and it will provide reassurance for the most part. It should have been done from the start.”
Mr Abdillah added that nationwide testing may be done after the elections when “the number of infections in the community will rise up once again to reflect the true situation on the ground.”
Read his post in full here:
As I sent my son back to school this morning, I cant help but know/feel that because our government didn't do community…