Singapore—Amidst the global outbreak of the coronavirus, classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this month, many Singaporeans who were overseas have come home. And what they’re experiencing here is often more shockingly “normal” than the places they left.
Many have caught flights right on time, as more and more aircraft have been grounded due to the Covid-19 outbreak, with even the world-famous Singapore Airlines cutting capacity by 96 percent until the end of next month.
But while Singapore Airlines is experiencing the “greatest challenge that the SIA Group has faced in its existence” life on the ground seems comparably unchanged, in comparison to the stringent lockdown measures, school closures, empty supermarket shelves, and exponential infection rates in other countries.
According to writer Keshia Naurana Badalge, who wrote in a CityLab article, “In Singapore, I’ve been feeling like I’m living in an alternate reality from the rest of the world. On a recent grocery run, store aisles were full and it did not look like anyone was stockpiling, only buying what they need for the next couple of days. McDonalds was crowded with schoolchildren studying and playing with their phones. (Schools are not closed here.) Inside the mall, a Muji sale drew a large crowd and long lines. The trains were packed with workers in office attire. Outside, the hawker centers were full of elderly people drinking coffee and chit-chatting about their families or weather.”
Even the daughters of actress Chen Xiuhuan, 21-year-old Shanisse, who is a medical student who had been on a four-month internship at Harvard in Boston, and 20-year-old Shalynn, a dentistry student in Australia.
Ms Chen told 8Days.sg that grocery stores were running out of food stocks and that she was concerned her daughters would not receive good health care because “they are only on a student visa and the country won’t prioritise people who are not their citizens.”
8Days.sg quotes her as saying, “The supermarkets are empty, and finding food is difficult. What if they fall sick there?”
Back home, life is as close to usual as it could possibly be given that we are in the midst of a pandemic.
The surreal-ness of living in a lockdown, something many countries all over the world has had to adjust to, is not something that Singaporeans have had to experience, even if some have actually called for it.
In a letter published in The Straits Times Forum, an individual named Soh Kar Chiang wrote that if a lockdown worked in Wuhan, where the pandemic started, “we should consider following suit.”
They added that “we should not be complacent and allow activities to go on as usual,” given the increase in the number of confirmed cases in the past days.
But many believe that a lockdown in Singapore is unnecessary. One major reason for this, according to NUS doctor Dale Fisher, is that the confirmed cases in Singapore were kept in hospital rather than at home, even for those that were only mild cases. He also cites diligent testing and contact tracing for people under investigation for the coronavirus, as well as clear and consistent communication from the authorities.
Dr Fisher writes, “In Singapore, we want life to go on as normal. We want businesses, churches, restaurants, and schools to stay open. This is what success looks like. Everything goes forward with modifications as needed, and you keep doing this until there’s a vaccine or a treatment.” —/TISG