There are three flaws in the measures taken by Singapore government when dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, including government’s overconfidence, a lack of crisis awareness and the citizens’ overdependence on government, says Tay Tian Yan, the deputy executive editor-in-chief of Malaysia’s Sinchew Daily.
In an article published by Malaysia’s Sinchew Daily on Friday (24 April), Mr Tay shared his opinion on the reason of Singapore falling heavily on COVID-19 pandemic though Singapore has been recognised as the most efficient and safest country with the top public health system around the world.
As the countries worldwide are dealing with the spread of COVID-19 since March, the Singapore government had encouraged the people to go about their lives, such as working, studying, travelling as normally as possible while asking people not to wear mask if they are not sick, says Mr Tay.
He remarked, “It is good to have self-confidence. But, overconfidence indicates the start of failure.”
Noting Singapore announced its “circuit breaker” measured three weeks after Malaysia imposed Movement Control Order (MCO), Mr Tay however, pointed out that the ministers had chosen to use the rigid “elite language” during the announcement, which in fact reflects the disconnection between government and general society.
He said, “Just by this ‘circuit breaker’, shows the degree of disconnection between the elite government and general public.”
“Despite Singaporeans having adequate knowledge with a good command in English, I believe that the common people would not understand what ‘circuit breaker’ means. They might know the electrical ‘circuit breaker’, but what does it has to do with COVID-19?” he added.
Even the Chinese media had trouble in finding the appropriate words to describe the “circuit breaker”, said Mr Tay.
Citing the word “lockdown”, “movement control order” or “stay-at-home orders” which clearly stated its meaning and purpose, Mr Tay stressed that the important government policies should be conveyed in a way that is easy to be understood for the people.
On top of this, Singapore also has overlooked its large population of migrant workers due to their overconfidence and not being “grounded”.
He noted that the leaders of Singapore government are the “outstanding individuals” who are “carefully selected” from academic elites, adding, “However, they are not ‘grounded’ because they ‘came from the sky, not from the land’.”
Speaking on the second flaws, Mr Tay mentioned that Singaporeans are too dependent on “Cheng Hu” (government in Hokkien language) as they always believe what the government says is right.
“When the Government says that there is no need to worry, everyone goes on with their life as usual. Similarly, when it asked Singaporeans not to wear masks, the people also heeded its “advice” and furthermore, mocked Taiwanese and Hong Kong citizens for wearing masks,” he said.
He then said that it would be “dangerous” in the case of unforeseen circumstances if the citizens merely obey the government and are deprived of independent thinking and judgment skills.
Singaporeans tend to take for granted as they feel prosperous and safe in the country with the highest GDP in the world, says Mr Tay, adding that this mentality has consequently caused a lack of crisis awareness among the society.
Hence, he said, Singaporeans assumed that the virus is only linked to other countries and has nothing to do with them though the world struggles against COVID-19.
With that in mind, some nightclubs even extended its operation hours the night before circuit breaker started, while the long queues have been seen at bubble tea shops after the food and beverage outlets were asked to temporarily close under the elevated circuit breaker measures.
Mr Tay expressed that there will be blind spots and failures regardless of how successful the country and how capable the government is, noting, “Overconfidence and success are traps on the way forward.”
However, he believed the country would ride out this crisis and learn the lesson from it.
Singapore has reported an additional 618 cases of COVID-19 infection on Saturday (25 April), bringing the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to 12,693 in the country.
Of the new cases, seven are Singaporeans and permanent residents, while the rest comprises migrant workers living in dormitories.