Fear has gripped the world.
Italy first quarantined 16 million people, then decided to lockdown the entire country.
Countries are not allowing cruise ships to dock.
Israel quarantines everyone entering its borders.
Schools have closed.
I have to cancel a work trip to Taiwan because Taiwan requires visitors from Singapore to wear a mask, record and report temperatures twice daily and to avoid crowded places.
A friend in India is stuck; he has to go to Hong Kong but Air India has stopped flying to China and Hong Kong and even if he finds his way there, anyone entering India from China must be quarantined and he’s trying to find out if India includes Hong Kong as part of China.
When the US suffered a particularly bad flu outbreak in 2017-18, with an estimated 45 million cases and 61,000 deaths, no one suggested banning travel.
This time it’s different.
I’m not trying to downplay the dangers of COVID-19 but it is a virus like any other. It is infectious and easily caught. It is a cold with all the irritation of a cold. Many people exposed to it do not get it and may not even know they have it and as for the rest it depends on how good their immunity system is. Some may breeze through it; those already extremely sick with other illnesses may die.
One does not catch the same cold twice. The symptoms are survivable: runny nose, sore throat and cough, slight fever and recovery rate is high. Of the 166 cases in Singapore so far, 93 have fully recovered.
Instead of panicking, now’s the time to “flatten the curve” by avoiding unnecessary visits to hospitals for minor ailments. It is also high time for us to be more mindful of our hygiene.
Disinfect shared surfaces, sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the crook of your elbow, stay at least a meter (three feet), ideally two meters (six feet), away from other human beings (“social distancing”), wear a mask if you are sick, wash your hands with soap often and avoid touching your face, stop spitting in public, and please, please at eateries and food courts, avoid spitting whatever shit in your mouth (fish bones, food debris, etc) onto tables or dumping used tissues into bowls and cups. (I see lots of people doing that – fucking disgusting!) Food handlers should be those certified disease-free and adopt a standard of cleanliness second to none. Cleaners should stop using the same smelly dirty germ-infested rag to wipe thousands of tables and toilets should be sanitized (most of our public toilets are a fucking disgrace. Puke-inducing!) Also, serving trays and cutlery should be thoroughly disinfected and rendered germ-free and dry. (Most of the time they are wet and the trays look like they are coated with scum!) Government inspectors should increase the frequency of inspection, heighten awareness, strictly enforce compliance of stringent standards and shut down establishments that do not adhere to fixed standards and jail and cane – yes, cane – repeat offenders.