We came back to Singapore about a month ago.
It was about seven in the evening when we finally pulled into our service apartment block. Waiting at the lifts, we could see out the glass doors into the swimming pool area where we both heard and saw a raucous Latin American party in full swing.
The salsa and hip-hop continued well into the night and we marvelled at the republic’s seeming certitude. We had just arrived from Kuala Lumpur where there was, and still is, a movement control order being enforced amid a complete lockdown.
Much has changed since then. Singapore, which used to be touted as a global model for its handling of the pandemic, got knocked off its pedestal about two weeks ago.
Indeed, when attempting to justify the huge numbers in the United States, talk show hosts routinely engage in bromides like “Even Singapore has had to…”
It would appear that the coronavirus is the great leveller of fortunes.
Still, Singapore tries to be different by avoiding words like lockdown or controls. No, the republic has merely instituted a “circuit breaker” and, truth be told, it’s much milder than in Malaysia.
The basic rules of lockdown still apply. You may no longer eat at restaurants and most shops are closed except for those selling essentials. In supermarkets Xs mark the spots where people might line up while still remaining safely socially distant from one another.
Indeed, these markings are everywhere – in subway cars and buses, even lifts. And almost everyone now works from home.
But the numbers keep rising ominously. At the time of writing, the island’s total number of infections crossed the 4,000 mark while Thursday saw the highest number of new cases in a day (over 700).
The rules keep tightening to keep apace of the threat. Early on, for example, we were “advised” that wearing masks might be useful. And it was “recommended.”
Very soon, it was not just desirable but necessary on pain of financial hurt or what the republic deems to be a “fine.” And it’s a fine thing too because enforcement, like death, is inevitable: there are closed circuit televisions everywhere.
The subways and buses still run and, masked, we can still go walking in the Botanic Gardens. The joggers, however, are still allowed to run unmasked which is puzzling as they are probably the largest droplet-emitters in the Gardens at any one time.
But this is Singapore, and no one questions authority. Sometimes, however, it’s carried to the point of absurdity. Case in point: yesterday evening, we spotted numerous people driving solo, yet they were wearing masks. Why on earth would anyone have to wear a mask while driving alone in an air-conditioned car? One suspects there is no such rule.
But Singaporeans have been conditioned over years to avoid chewing gum and people called Jay, walking. Methinks they are being simply prudent and prefer to err on the side of caution. Indeed, everyone follows whatever directives the Singapore government deems fit without comment or talk-back.
It’s like PMS, it’s simply that, period!
Which is why, I’m continually amazed to read stories in the Malaysian press that relate to the sorts of things our countrymen get up to during the MCO – golfing, arguing, even yelling at the police. And government parliamentarians have returned to the bad old days of being appointed to cushy GLC jobs…Alas, it appears that nothing has changed.