Singapore—According to activist Roy Yi Ling Ngerng, who is based in Taiwan, despite the praise, the Singaporean Government has received in handling the challenges stemming from the current Covid-19 outbreak, Taiwan has actually done a better job handling the situation.
Singapore, Mr Ngerng maintains, can learn a thing or two from how Taiwan handled the outbreak, which he said “managed the crisis with more grace” despite its close proximity to China, largely due to the transparency with which the Taiwanese Government operates. This has built trust with the public, who have not panicked during the crisis.
The activist did admit that Singapore’s handling of the outbreak has been “satisfactory,” citing examples of swift action taken such as testing all individuals who had been diagnosed with pneumonia for the new coronavirus and announcing the payment of hospital bills of patients with Covid-19.
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But Mr Ngerng takes exception to the Singaporean Government’s giving out four free masks per family based on the premise that these should be used only in cases of illness, although Member of Parliament Cheng Li Hui had been seen wearing one while distributing masks, saying she had done so on the advice of the country’s National Environmental Agency to “protect other residents and volunteers,” which angered netizens.
In Taiwan, he said, the policy concerning masks has been different, largely because Taiwan manufactures its own masks. At the beginning of the outbreak, the Government announced that Taiwan has a reserve of 45 million surgical face masks, that production would be increased, to as much as 10 million masks per day. The Government also limited the number of masks people could buy daily at a fixed rate, and said that medical institutions and people with chronic illnesses and special needs would be prioritized in mask distribution. Distributors caught hoarding masks would also face stiff fines and even prison sentences, and authorities watched over the exporting of these masks closely.
Mr Ngerng wrote, “In contrast, no such measure for mask rationing has been announced in Singapore.”
Another area where Taiwan has done better is in being transparent, communicating “every decision clearly to the public at every step, from the number of face masks available, to the production plans, distribution, and rationing strategy,” which has built trust with the public. This has helped curb the kind of panic buying that Singapore saw last weekend.
The activist was therefore surprised that Bloomberg published an article praising the Singaporean Government’s handling of the crisis after PM Lee’s speech addressing the country on February 7. According to Mr Ngerng, “It was out-of-step with what people were feeling on the ground.”
While PM Lee said there was no need for panic buying, Mr Ngerng wrote, “However, Singaporeans netizens pointed out that panic buying happened due to a lack of awareness about the outbreak. The government’s communication about the coronavirus measures have been one-sided, and a lack of public trust in Singapore’s farce democracy was evident in the widespread panic buying.”
The activist further praised Taiwan for being “a democracy that has greater transparency and accountability,” pointing out that “Singapore’s political persecution of its citizens in the last few decades,” of which Mr Ngerng was one, “breeds fear in the system. When a crisis occurs, the immediate response among the citizenry therefore contains a stronger fear-based element.”
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