The Zika scourge

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By: Gintai_昇泰

Last Friday, around lunch time, a lady flagged my taxi at Kallang Avenue. I stopped by the road side and was prepared to pick her up with hazard lights turned on. Instead of hopping into my taxi, she knocked on the front window. I wound down the window and looked at her. She asked me, “Uncle, can you fetch me to Sims Place?” I replied, “Off course! Get in!” Later, she told me that I was the 3rd taxi she had stopped. The 2 cabs before me refused to send her there. She was so glad that I agreed to send her there where she lived. On the way to her place, she told me that since the news broke out about the Zika mosquitos outbreak in her area, the place has become quiet. Unlike before, it used to be bustling with activities.

I used to take my meal break at Sims Place hawker centre whenever I pass by. It’s time to visit there after quite some time since the Zika phenomenon. After dropping off my pax, I drove to the big open car park opposite the hawker centre next to the new condominium Sims Urban Oasis which is under construction. I noticed that the carpark is quite empty. Usually, it’s quite fully occupied. I then walked to the nearby HDB coffeeshop to have my favorite Teochew fish ball noodles. Even though it’s selling at $5 per bowl, the waiting time could be half an hour.
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The coffeeshop is quite empty. The 3 staff of the noodle stall are having much free time. 

Surprisingly, today no queue at all. The noodle sellers even had time to indulge in small talk. They were saying since Monday, the whole neighborhood had become a “ghost town”. The lunch time crowd had suddenly disappeared. They were in a sombre mood. They did not order much raw noodles cuz they were worried about the bad business and low demand for their cooked food. They also commented that the wet market and hawker centre not as crowded as before.

The Zika mosquitos phenomenon started at Sims Place, spread over to nearby Aljunied Crescent area and now it’s Bedok North Ave 3. The areas are getting bigger and the number of confirmed cases getting higher with the latest statistics hitting at 240 cases island wide. The numbers keep going up and the clusters keep getting more. It’s no joke. Link

One pax remarked to me that Singapore is such a clean and “fine” city. How come we still have mosquitos around? It’s quite logic defying. We usually associate mosquitos breeding to 3rd world countries less hygienic and clean with tones of uncollected rubbish rather than sterile Singapore.

More than 35 yrs ago when I was still in my teens living in filthy unhygienic kampong at Jalan Ang Teng near to the Kaki Bukit area just outside the perimeter of Paya Lebar airport, we had to sleep inside a mosquitos net. Those days, we did not even have electricity. No flushing system. We had night soil collector coming around few days to clear the load of shit! We used air-pressured hurricane lamp for lighting. (Only much later we had electricity). When it rained, it’s always flooded. We had to wear slippers to walk about 5 km of dirt track with red muddy earth to the main road to take a bus each time it rained. Once we reach our schools at Bartley Rd (Elling North Pri Sch and Mount Vernon Sec Sch), we changed our slippers to white school shoes. I still remember it was either SBS No 93 or 95 to get to the schools from Airport Road opposite Hong San temple (still there) to Bartley Rd.

Whenever the raining season came towards end of the year, our place was often flooded. Mosquitos would multiply becoming a nuisance. We had to light mosquitos coils in the nights. When I remarked to my pax that it’s going to be heavy rain as the black clouds were looming over the horizon. It’s good cuz we could clear away the haze. My pensive pax retorted that we would have more mosquitos problem even as the rains chase away the haze! Either way, we still suffer. No rains mean more haze. More rains mean more mosquitos! What a langgar situation!

Anyway, in those days even though we had lots of mosquitos flying around resulting in us sleeping inside mosquitos nets, we did not hear of dengue or Zika cases. No one died of those mosquitos related diseases. Mosquitos were more of a nuisance then. I could still recall workers employed by NEA going around carrying a big copper tank on their back spraying chemicals in small drains or puddles of water to snuff out mosquitos breeding. No fumigation or smoking out mosquitos then.
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Back in those days after a heavy downpour we could see the above in action. Not anymore!

Nowadays, we see lots of fumigation going on. Could those mosquitos be killed by fumigation or they are merely chasing mosquitos away from one area to another area? I do not see workers going around like in those days spraying chemicals to kill off mosquitos breeding. Instead, they are going all out to every household keep telling them to change water in flower pots etc. They have been doing that for so many years to prevent dengue yet the Zika scourge still surfaces. Are they barking at the wrong tree? Of course, they are making commendable efforts in educating the public about water retention in households leading to mosquitos breeding, but it’s already reached saturation point. Other avenues and angles need to be explored.

I feel that they should go back to the basics. Concentrate on those Zika or dengue clusters and comb every inch to eradicate mosquitos breeding grounds. Get more NEA staff or grassroots volunteers to look at every nook and cranny with puddles of water especially after a heavy downpour to spray chemicals to neutralize mosquitos breeding. The biggest culprits are those construction sites where water could collect leading to mosquitos breeding. Co-incidentally, many of the victims are construction workers! Spray chemicals to destroy all these little places where water could collect after a heavy downpour. Let’s think outside the box lah. Instead of going door to door to preach those converted. Believe me, those households are more afraid of mosquitos than the authorities.

I’ve just witnessed and reported about the forlorn situation at Sims Place neighborhood. Do we want that to happen to the whole of Singapore? Imagine what would happen if the whole Singapore turned into Sims Place? As it is, many countries – the list keeps increasing – are advising their citizens not to travel to Singapore. Even neighboring Malaysia is spraying insecticide on all our cars crossing over as they try to ensure only mosquitos free cars are allowed entry. Everyone outside Singapore is fearful of us entering their countries just like those cabbies avoiding sending pax to Sims Place as elaborated earlier when that lady had problem getting a cab there where she lived.

Already tourist spending has been the lowest in 6 yrs. Link With Zika and so many travel advisory by so many countries, I fear the worst. In the words of Lohcifer, “When people fear coming to a country, that’s very bad for the country. A drop in visitor arrivals affect the entire economy. Last year, visitors spent 22 billion Singapore dollars in our economy!” I say, airport and hotels will die. Taxis and others will also die! When SARs reigned, one pax waved, 10 taxis rushed over! That anecdote was related by one taxi driver during SARs when taxi business was so bad!

So instead of harping on United Nations praising our exemplary efforts to contain Zika, I suggest all relevant depts get down to work. For goodness sake, pls don’t go around knocking on households repeating what is already on the mass media and tons of posters around telling people how to get rid of unwanted water. Like I suggested, search every inch of those hotspots especially constructions sites and those out-laying areas to eradicate mosquitos breeding grounds!

If only you care to wander to those carparks and ulu places, you would find tons of rubbish i.e. discarded food packages, beer cans, empty plastic bags etc all collected water which are breeding grounds for mosquitos. The main culprits are those delivery trucks or vans after eating their package lunches and drinks, they simply throw them away in the bushes or fringes of the carparks. Let me give you an example to prove my point. Just go to the half-way point on the road leading to Mandai Zoo, you could see many vehicles parked at the bend at the edge of the reservoir. Look carefully, you will see so much rubbish thrown there. Only happened in 3rd world countries with filthy rubbish laying around collecting rain water leading to mosquitos breeding. Target those people throwing rubbish from their vehicles and have their vehicles confiscated even if there is a need to change the law! Indeed, rubbish dumps are a major source of mosquitos breeding.

In these bad times of the Zika assault, yet netizens still have a sense of humor. They are so ingenious and creative as to come with some interesting terms such as “Majulah Zikapura!”, “Zikapolis – referring to Sims Place” and the best one;

“China government catches corrupt officials.
US and Europe catch terrorists.
The Philippines catches drug dealers.
Malaysia trying to catch No: 1 and
Singapore government trying to catch mosquitos!”

Whatever it is, Zika is no joke. It could adversely impact our livelihood and our way of life if it gets out of control! Let us pray that it could get over as soon as possible!


Republished from the blog ‘Gintai_昇泰‘.