“Lots of people chiong (rushed out) like ghosts when the hell gates opened,” said a Straits Times Facebook reader of the crowds seen since widespread restrictions were lifted in phase two. The colourful comment was posted in response to a health expert who said the public in Singapore was behaving as if the Covid-19 outbreak “no longer existed”.
The existence of another important thing in the minds of the public is also in doubt. As ST Facebook user Chin Zhi Yan put it: “Many of us have totally forgotten about the existence of Dorscon.”
For those who need a reminder, Dorscon is the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition, and it remains at the second-highest alert level of orange.
When Singapore announced back in February that it would be raising its response from yellow to orange, the public surged to the supermarkets and swept shelves clean of toilet paper, amid panic-buying of groceries.
But when the authorities said on Thursday that it will be Dorscon orange for some time yet, some ST Facebook users seemed startled to be reminded of it.
Angie Lim wrote: “We have long forgotten about Dorscon orange… My family and friends just keep mentioning we’re in phase two and waiting for phase three to come.”
NEW, DANGEROUS PHASE
Never mind about whether Singapore is in phase two, three or 10, there is a new and dangerous phase that is worrying the World Health Organisation. It recently warned of the phase when people get tired of restrictions despite the ongoing spread of the disease.
The Covid-19 pandemic shows no signs of slowing down across the world, with the number of cases approaching the 10 million mark and hitting new daily highs.
Countries like Australia and South Korea that have eased lockdowns have seen new clusters emerging, and had to bring back restrictions.
People sickened by the disease are still gasping for air. They are still dying to breathe, or simply dying.
SCOLDED FOR SAFETY REQUEST
Despite experts warning that the same resurgence of infections could happen in Singapore, crowds here are still lowering their masks and inhibitions for long makan (eating) sessions and aimless strolls in shopping centres, some ST Facebook users observed.
Nelson Ngu wrote of the situation inside malls: “All kiasu one, chiong ah, like there are sales going on at 80 per cent. Necessities or not, they don’t care. Never buy anything, go and squeeze with the crowd, they feel excited.
“You will see some don’t even bother to wear masks any more. Putting the mask under their chin for decorative purposes only.”
Priya Vijayan said of coffee-shop patrons in a central part of Singapore: “It’s quite a scary sight. I saw them having their masks down and chatting away or texting, long after having their meals. I’m sure it’s the same elsewhere.”
LONG WEEKENDS IN 2021: ST Facebook users usually react to details of gazetted public holidays with excitement as they plan vacations. But this time, many were worried that the Covid-19 pandemic would still be wrecking travel plans next year. Colette Lim wrote: “First time I was unexcited to read about this.” Veronica Dong said: “Don’t be happy too early, still don’t know how the Covid-19 situation will be by the end of this year.”
NPARKS GIVES SEED PACKETS: ST Facebook users were abuzz over a National Parks Board initiative that includes distributing free packets of leafy and fruit vegetable seeds to encourage people to grow produce at home. Some were thrilled – Joan Ark, for instance, wrote: “Awesome! We must be self-sufficient. Covid-19 is a wake-up call!” – while others were worried about mosquitoes.
Felicia Chew said of a mall in Orchard Road: “Go and see during 1pm-2pm. You try to do social distancing, people just cut into your lane or walk side by side with you.”
Having your safe space being invaded is bad enough. Getting scolded for trying to stay responsibly safe is even worse.
Elena Foo wrote of people pushing back against safe distancing: “There are many inconsiderate people who come too near my parents or me, and yet they told us off when we asked them to keep an appropriate distance.”
‘JUST TELL US WHAT TO DO’
Arguing that people are simply doing what they are allowed to do in phase two, ST Facebook user Elio Mazrano Oliver Amad said: “The public does not think that the outbreak is over. Because Singaporeans mostly don’t take matters into their own hands, they follow the laws and regulations, when the Government says circuit breaker, they follow. When phase one, they follow. Now phase two, they also follow.
“Just tell us what to do, we will follow.”
Jimmy Chatsuthiphan echoed his view: “What do you expect? If you allow it, people will do it.”
It is risky hoping that most people will self-regulate and stick to the spirit of the guidelines.
It is human nature to see how far one can bend the rules – and rulers – before they break, as 1m becomes 70cm when you hover closer to your friend whom you have missed very much.
ST Facebook reader Christy Young said: “I suppose what we have learnt is that the longer the restriction is imposed, the more deprived people are, and the more eager they would be to crowd and see their family. It’s a vicious circle.”