Milo Peng Funders keep this newsletter running, as well as supporting my other independent writing and civil society work, so please become one if you can! You can also tip me on my Ko-Fi page.
Covid-19 Update: Bye bye big events, and a stupid spat about variants
Here we are in our semi-lockdown, otherwise known about Phase 2 (Heightened Alert). Given the situation, the World Economic Forum has cancelled their planned August event, as has the Shangri-La Dialogue that was meant to happen early next month.
Experts are concerned about the speed with which the Changi Airport cluster grew, and a director at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases wrote a message that went viral on chat apps calling on Singaporeans to go above and beyond government recommendations. His advice: stay home as much as possible, and don't socialise beyond a small bubble of people (like your immediate family).
Then there's the distraction we didn't need: Delhi's chief minister Arvind Kejriwal claimed that there was a "Singapore variant" of Covid-19 that could spread to India. Singapore has hit back against the claim, pointing out that the B.1.617.2 variant prevalent in many of our recent cases was found to have originated in India. The government has even issued a general correction order under POFMA requiring social media platforms to send a message to all their Singapore end-users telling them that there's no Singapore variant (anecdotally, implementation seems to be patchy and weird; it's not clear how these intermediaries figure out who is/isn't a Singapore end-user). They didn't POFMA Arvind Kejriwal directly, though: political scientist Ian Chong makes some good points about the problem with doing that, although it once again shows us how useless POFMA is at dealing with the thing the government said it was supposed to deal with, which is falsehoods and meddling from foreign actors.
The debate over "whose" variant it isn't just meaningless—Covid-19 doesn't give a shit about your national borders—but also harmful, because it feeds into ongoing nationalism, prejudice, and racism, at a time when Indians in Singapore are already feeling more unsafe because of racist and xenophobic sentiment.
Lastly, the government has decided to extend the interval between the first and second doses of the vaccine to six to eight weeks. This way, more Singaporeans can get at least their first jab. As the new Minister for Health, Ong Ye Kung, put it: "Instead of having a good number of people getting maximum protection. We make sure we get the maximum number of people get good protection." Makes sense to me.
Everyone 40 years old and above can register for vaccination—please, please, please do! Love, this 32-year-old who's still eagerly waiting for her turn.
Keep those receipts
If your priority is saving face, it's probably best to make sure that the other side doesn't have receipts before you make public statements. At least, this is the lesson that I hope the Ministry of Manpower learnt over this past week.
Influencer and former DJ Jade Rasif took to her Instagram Stories to tell the story of how her recently hired migrant domestic worker tested positive for Covid-19. Her experience raised some troubling questions about Covid-19 management and quarantines. For instance, although they paid S$2,500 for the worker to serve a full 14-day Stay Home Notice (SHN) upon her arrival in Singapore from Indonesia, the authorities released the worker after just two days, saying that she'd been assessed to have previously recovered from Covid-19.
As the Covid-19 situation worsened, they decided to test the worker again, and she tested positive. Rasif and her family weren't put under quarantine, but the police later said that she was being investigated for breaching a quarantine order. (There are other details, like why the worker wasn't assigned a Covid-19 case number and reported in the daily statistics, but I'm focusing on the highlights here.)
MOM then issued a statement on Facebook saying that Rasif's account was "inaccurate".
Rasif responded to say that she had the receipts, and later updated her IG Stories to say that after speaking with her, MOM had apologised and admitted that their press release was inaccurate. But communications between the two parties seem to have since broken down, and Rasif has once again taken to IG Stories to release more receipts, including screencaps of WhatsApp chats, emails, and recordings of phone conversations with MOM and the police. She says she has more to release in the coming days, so I'm going to have to keep reminding myself to check IG Stories.
All in all, it doesn't make those in charge look very good. It's also revealed to many Singaporeans that not everyone required to serve a 14- or 21-day SHN upon arrival in Singapore actually does the full stretch. Turns out this was reported back in February, but I guess lots of us, including myself, missed it.
A webinar on labour migration and the pandemic
Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) is organising Hunger Games for real: The Bangla worker abroad, a webinar on 3 June at 8pm (Singapore time). Experts from different countries will be sharing their perspectives on labour migration as experienced by Bangladeshi workers. The webinar is free to attend, and you can get more information and register here.
I’m starting this section so the We, The Citzens community can send shout-outs to one another and support local businesses during this time. If you have a shout-out, or a local business that you’d like to spotlight, feel free to reach out! Reply to this newsletter, or contact me with a message you’d like me to put into the weekly wraps. I'll try my best to fit them in, or carry them over into a following week.
Note: Spotlights on local businesses are intended to help them amplify their reach at this difficult time. They don’t amount to We, The Citizens endorsements and I’m not charging for advertising space.
📣 A friend of We, The Citizens would like to send a shout-out to all the teachers and staff in Singaporean schools working hard to keep our schools safe while also switching back to home-based learning. Thank you for all your hard work!
📚 Another friend of the newsletter, Tommy Wong, would like to share the self-help books that he's written. You can check out his website here.
🥣 For all the granola lovers out there: Nothing Special makes their own granola, like Choclit and JSG, Jesus Saves Gays. The granola is vegan, and there’s a return jar policy that supports recycling and helps you save money. Check out their online shop here.
🧇 The Leeter Tunku Kopitiam B612 sits in Grassroots Bookroom on Bukit Pasoh Road and is still open for take-out! (They’re working on delivery options, so keep an eye out.) They’ve got coffees, teas (including premium Taiwanese oolong), scones, and waffles (nom nom nom). Check out their takeout menu and pop in for something if you’re in the area.
Thank you for reading! Feel free to forward this on to anyone you think might be interested. 🙏🏼 Once again, a reminder that becoming a Milo Peng Funder is an awesome thing to do! You can also make a one-off contribution via my Ko-Fi page.