Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

COVID-19 Reality Check

After 15 days without any locally case of COVID-19 transmission, the good streak had to end. On 26 Nov, a Singaporean man tested positive for COVID-19. Then, yesterday, another Singaporean man died from complications relating to COVID-19. Here’s the sombre reality check: COVID-19 is still lurking around.

That the situation is improving is definitely good and encouraging. New positive cases have dwindled to a trickle. Deaths relating to COVID-19 can perhaps be characterised as fairly infrequent. Before yesterday’s case, the last death was on 12th October, and before that, 14th July.

Some people have been hopeful that things would return to normal. Our government hinted at the possibility of Phase 3 coming before the end of this year. The last one or two weeks, we’ve heard good news about the efficacy of several candidate COVID-19 vaccinations.

While I, too, very much want things to return to normal, as in the pre-COVID-19 normal and not just the Phase 3 normal, the reality is that some changes are needed in way we go about our lives at least for the immediate and near future. Some things might change forever.

I don’t like the ubiquitous surveillance in place. What we have now can become a precedent for a more permanent surveillance in future, or simply something that authorities can more readily invoke at their whim and fancy. This can also embolden some private organisations to institute unreasonable active surveillance to the detriment of individual’s privacy rights.

However, I appreciate that the government has a job to do, and as good citizens, we should try to do what is needed to help them help us. All the safety measures, whether we totally agree with them or not, were intended to keep us safe.

So I am really annoyed that while some, perhaps most, of us try to do the right thing, there are others who just cannot be bothered. There are people who are responsibly following the guidance on safe measurements, while others have self-declared that normal, the kind of normal pre-COVID-19, has returned.

Dear service engineer from Master Systems Marine, what where you thinking when you went out for dinner in a “3-in-1” group totalling 12 people? I know, the argument, that you would be a group of 12 anyways, outside the restaurant. You would intermingle, anyway, outside the restaurant. This rule about groups-of-five and non-intermingling is stupid. But that is what it is. Why do you think you shouldn’t have to abide by this rule?

Dear Seoul Garden, did you do your due diligence? What measures did you take to discourage intermingling? I’ve been in some food establishments where groups are intentionally sat far apart to minimise the chance of intermingling. I.e., if you arrive with 10 people, and say you are two groups of five each, they’ll assign you two tables far away from each other. Some service staff actively warn or reprimand customers for the violations. I know they cannot prevent violations, but they do what is reasonably in their power to do.

I’ve been in some restaurants which attempted to separate my family of five into two groups, because of various table sizing issues. E.g. while the table could physically accommodate four people, doing so would violate the 1 metre spacing requirement between diners in adjacent tables. I understand they have to work within various constraints.

Unfortunately, there are still many people who just don’t care.

A few days ago, I was at a food court. The food court management had done their part by clearly marking tables that were not to be used. I wondered why didn’t they simply remove the chairs from those tables, but realised that it won’t help since people would rearrange the chairs anyway. (I suppose they could get rid of the tables…)

What the food court management did was to cable-tie the chairs at tables that weren’t allowed to be used, so that you could not move the chairs. I suppose that works too.

However, in the short span of time it took to have my lunch. no fewer than 5 groups of diners attempted to use the table. They saw the sign, clearly understood the meaning, looked around to see if they could identify another empty table, then decided they couldn’t be bothered and attempted to occupy the table anyway. They tried to pull out the chairs, couldn’t, struggled a bit, then realised they were cable-tied. All left looking very annoyed, the tone in their voices of exasperation made it sound they believed it was their right to occupy said table.

One group of young men even studied to see if they could release the chairs from the cable ties. Not easy, They gave up. The food court management did an excellent job, I’d have to commend them on that.

These groups of diners were all locals. They must know all the safe measurements that have been mandated in Singapore. They not only couldn’t be bothered, and they were willing and ready to circumvent the rules.

My family of five had to sit at two tables, because the food court had no tables (that I could find, anyway) catered to five diners.

It is one thing to momentarily forget about the various safe management measures. Like, one may forget to space out 1 metre apart in the queue. But is quite a whole different thing you organise a family gathering of 12, and then intermingle across the groups. Or actively try to circumvent table separation measures in a food court.

Most times, the violating actions are less egregious. People are just careless and forgetful. We need constant reminders. For some of us, the new norms have not internalised. But we do try to keep doing what is right, and what is required of us. We need everyone to be on the same page with us, and to all do our part.

The year-end festive season is almost upon us. Traditionally, this means insanely crowded shopping malls, restaurants, entertainment venues, and other places people go to unwind. It will be different this year. That is something that needs to sink in.

While things are indeed looking alright in Singapore, the reality is that much of the world isn’t doing that great in handling COVID-19. The reality is that the pandemic situation is still fluid. We may talk of a HK travel bubble one week, and the next, see a surge in cases there, causing upset in travel plans for some people. This should serve as a reminder. The fact that we are doing alright now doesn’t mean we will always do okay, if we don’t put the effort to ensure that.

Some of us will make the necessary adjustments. I won’t call them so much as sacrifices, but definitely, we are doing our part to abide by the prevailing safe management measures. Have smaller gatherings. Skip the gatherings. Celebrate in different ways. I hope others don’t spoil market.

For some of us, it is only about socialising norms, recreational norms, and entertainment norms, that need adjustments. Don’t forget that many others are facing other worse sorts of crisis. Be it about jobs, economy, or even the sustainability of certain industries, we won’t quite get back to the pre-COVID-19 normal.

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