Updated: Aug 17, 2020
There is nothing to stop Australians and tourists from their living La Vida Loca beach lifestyle, not even in this most challenging situation amid COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the new rule of social distancing, thousands flocked to the iconic Bondi Beach on Friday, 20th March 2020, for the sand and sun. Patrons are going to their local pubs and restaurants. Social distancing is not a serious matter for some Australians.
If rules change from time to time in a matter of minutes from different authorities, both state and federal government, do we have to blame them for not following the social distancing regulations? Whether people are exercising their stubbornness or ill-informed, bodies such as police, the local government up to Federal government, and business owners who run people-gathering spaces are acting on their phase based on their new-found notion. We are not taking this matter seriously. Are we getting it through this most challenging situation together?
With 266 total cases and zero death, Singapore is the country with the lowest infection rate in the world. Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, clearly wants to follow Singapore as a model--and as many other countries do--for not closing schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As a person who once lived and went to school in Singapore, I was utterly baffled because what Mr Morrison missed here is even the bigger picture of it all. It is the benchmark set by Singaporeans and its government when it comes to outbreak and pandemic.
Singapore learned from the previous SARS outbreak in 2002 - 2003, and by the time of the beginning of coronavirus spread in Wuhan, it was ready to contain the virus before reaching out the island. After the SARS outbreak, it built hospitals for isolation with negative room pressures, an isolation technique to prevent cross-contamination from room to room.
When the world first heard of the novel coronavirus in China, from 31st December, it started the preparation to secure the nation from the outbreak. At that time, we were all sitting on the couch watching the news and probably thought it would never come to us Downunder, and our government had nothing in the plan yet. When the World Health Organisation announced the pandemic status end of January, Singapore national emergency procedures to protect public health were already in places. In February, it was already aware that the danger of the virus could potently bring down the nation’s public health, social and economic.
Singapore’s measurement--to protect public health--keeps those of positive ones in hospitals. The rule also applies to those with mild cases. No one could go back to the community if symptoms persist. There is also a dedicated touch-base team. Its job is merely tracking down each contact of the infected person. If any symptoms occur, there is a special pick-up arrangement for a further test. Only those who come back with no sign, self-quarantine themselves under some strict monitoring via SMS and the link to show the authority your phone whereabouts, because apparently, no one will leave home these days without being unbeknown to social media updates. Breaching the rules apply harsh penalties--and yes, it is very Singaporean.
In the first week, they only tested those who came from Wuhan, Hubei province, China. In the following fourteen days, they started to test anyone coming from China. By the end of January, their hospitals were ready with the test. The procedure moved quickly to screen anyone--with the records of being in contact with COVID-19 patients--who went to the hospital with respiratory illness. They run a test for every medical staff with mild symptoms.
With strong community involvement, messages to follow the public health regulation is clear: Stay home, if you’re unwell. It is compulsory to test yourself if you’re sick, and with records of being in contact with a confirmed case. You are to wear a mask when you go out places. Cough on your elbow. Avoid Indoor crowds in any circumstances. As for the general public, business owners who run gathering spaces apply social distancing regulation, such as restaurants and pubs to cut down the number of patrons. While messaging to the public are limited to certain authorities. Every message to the public is consistent and strategic, and they continually send them. It ensures transparencies to the public, so people have confidence in the government.
In Australia, we were waking up frightened and speeding to brace ourselves. Fears are feeding on some people. That is why we are still hoarding toilet paper and involved in violent abuses and racist attacks in supermarkets and public transports.
Mr Morisson wants to model after Singapore in handling the situation, but we are talking about a nation who obey and adapt to public health awareness. We are talking about an island nation with 721.5 km per square and population 5.612 million here. Not only there is a measurement to monitor each students’ body temperatures twice in a day, but hygiene living is Singaporean way of life. The hygienic way of life has been in their blood for generations.
We are talking about a society that gives harsh punishment for graffiti tags on public spaces and applies stringent restrictions on demonstrations and protests in public places. A country that bans and fines its citizens for chewing gum and spitting on the streets.
Here we are talking about a country that implies an obligatory for a two-year national service to every male citizen until the age of fifty--unless you are an officer or own any specific qualified military skills. Disciplines and obedience are ingrained in every Singaporean.
They are not mucking around with the need to follow the national emergency procedures. Still, at the same time, they are aware that the show must go on because as an island nation with limited natural resources and their revenues mostly rely on services and hospitality.
Singapore’s approach of COVID-19 works because each aspect of the national legislation implants works closely together with its citizen. It is the country that is getting it through together in the most challenging time.