Singapore – Temasek Holdings CEO, Ho Ching, took to Facebook to advise everyone not to “jump to conclusions that the crowded and cramped conditions of dorms are the cause of dorm outbreaks” and to understand that cultural norms play a role in such instances.
Mdm Ho shared her thoughts on this early on Sunday morning (May 31) with a few statements regarding the massive outbreak of the Covid-19 virus among foreign worker dormitories in the country.
As the number of confirmed cases continues to increase, Mdm Ho added another factor for the occurrence, something beyond the “crowded and cramped” living conditions within dormitories.
She noted that regardless of space, room layout and capacity, similar areas such as a cruise ship, aircraft carriers, nursing homes and prisons, also have significant outbreaks.
“Yes, we can design for better ventilation, and so on,” said Mdm Ho. “But let’s also understand the cultural norms, and work with rather than against human habits,” she added.
As someone who has kept a close watch on the developments of the pandemic, Mdm Ho gave a few examples on where “human habits and norms” could be tweaked to reduce cross infections without compromising socialization altogether.
“Eating and sharing food is very much a norm across all cultures and religions,” said Mdm Ho. She suggested limiting the use of the same chopsticks or utensils to pick up food from one’s plate and the serving dish as an example to lessen the chances of cross infecting each other through the handling of common utensils.
“So we can still eat together around a table or food servings, and yet not share saliva or touching of common utensils,” said Mdm Ho.
Regarding the issue of chatting with one another over a meal, Mdm Ho suggested transparent screens as one solution on top of proper hand hygiene.
Cultural norms within dormitories
According to Mdm Ho, dormitories and the differences in infection rates among the various rooms and resulting clusters formed were investigated.
Mdm Ho circled back to her initial point of the virus outbreak among foreign workers and explained that “social habits such as pooling their food to eat together” played a part in the transmission.
“So before we rush into trying to do this or that changes, let’s pause and learn from studies of infection transmissions to understand the main pathways of transmission,” Mdm Ho explained. “We should find ways to reduce fomites and saliva exchange, even as we continue to support meals together and activities as social beings,” she added.
Mdm Ho advised the public to “pause and understand” the situation before starting a “campaign on crowded and cramped quarters” and rushing into a “flurry of champagne socialism type solutions.”
Members from the online community were not satisfied with Mdm Ho’s explanation and tagged it as a “privileged and elitist” perspective. One even asked her to “delete the whole post” if this was her take on the whole situation.
“Trying to clear our society’s name by shifting the conversation to eating habits puts the blame entirely on this community, and you know in your heart of hearts that cannot be the truth,” commented Joel Tan.
We shouldn’t jump to conclusion that “crowded and cramped” conditions of dorms is the cause of dorm outbreaks. On a…
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