Singapore — At around the same time that the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) was warning that the coronavirus crisis could result in “famines of biblical proportions,” Singaporeans who had just heard that the tighter restrictions on the circuit breaker would result in some bubble tea places closing down, prompted some to run out to get their fix before the outlets closed.
While some may say that Covid-19 is a great equaliser in that it can infect anyone and affects everyone, the degree to which a person will be affected by it varies widely.
A sobering report from the UN’s WFP on Tuesday (Apr 21) warned that the number of severely hungry individuals, which had already been on the rise even before the coronavirus pandemic, may double from 135 million to over 250 million due to the economic losses from the outbreak of the disease.
The latest Global Report on Food Crises, published yearly, listed the ten most at-risk countries for famine because of conflict, climate change and economic crises: Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Syria, Ethiopia, Venezuela, South Sudan, Sudan, Haiti and Nigeria.
David Beasley, the head of the WFP, said that countries need to act fast as these countries could be facing famines in a matter of months.
Meanwhile, in Singapore, where the GDP is substantially higher than the countries at risk for famine and where the Government has ensured that food stocks are well-supplied, food security does not seem to be a problem.
For some Singaporeans, the bigger problem may well be that they’ll be missing their favorite Boba Milk Tea or McDonald’s meal for the next two weeks.
After the circuit breaker extension and tighter restrictions were announced, photos of lines of both last-minute buyers and deliverymen at milk tea shops made the rounds on social media on Tuesday night. In one such queue, a fight even broke out.
The new restrictions announced in Singapore included the temporary closure of stand-alone shops that sold only sweets, desserts, packaged snacks, and drinks, which a number of milk tea shops fell under. Some of those in food courts and hawker centres remain open for delivery and takeaway.
As for McDonald’s, when several of the fast-food giant’s employees tested positive for Covid-19 across different branches in Singapore, the Ministry of Health advised the company to shut down temporarily starting last weekend, which also drew a rush for some Singaporeans who wanted to get their last fast food fix. And when McDonald’s shuttered its service on Sunday, many other Singaporeans turned to Burger King and Pizza Hut.
In the months to come, wealthier nations will need to step in to prevent millions of other countries from starvation. Singaporeans have already shown that there is far more to them than caring about Boba Milk Tea and Big Macs, as proven by the outpouring of donations given to migrant workers and other beneficiaries in need, despite the economic fallout from the pandemic. When the time comes for its citizens to look beyond its own borders to those in need from other countries, we hope that the same generosity will pour out. After all, what’s one bubble tea or Big Mac compared to saving someone’s life? -/TISG
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