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Back down to gatherings of two as we exit-not-exit the pandemic

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I’m not going to apologise for leading with the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill in this week’s wrap even though I already sent out a special issue, mentioned it in last week’s wrap and produced a Twitter thread on key clauses last week. This law is A Big Deal and it’s not getting anywhere near enough the attention that it should!

It also appears that the government is planning bulldoze it through Parliament as quickly as possible. According to mainstream media reports, it’s set to have its second (and likely third) reading at the next parliamentary sitting on 4 October. That’s just three weeks after it was first introduced in Parliament on 13 September. 😱 Why the rush?

Two NGOs, currently gazetted as "political associations", have expressed their concerns about FICA. Reporters Without Borders have gone further to call it a "legal monstrosity". For those of you who haven’t read the bill or need to catch up on what it’s all about, please read this summary. If you, like me, are troubled by the bill and how quickly it’s being pushed through, please also sign this petition calling for extensive public consultation instead of rushing into passing such expansive legislation.

While you're at it, also read this piece about the different types of "foreign influence" that exist and what we need to look out for.

Covid-19 ain’t lookin’ good, again

Starting on Monday, social gatherings will go back down to groups of two. Vaccination rates are high, but there have also been increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases (curse you, Delta!!!), of which a tiny percentage will end up seriously ill. But if there’s a large number of cases, even a small percentage could translate to a worrying number. At the time of writing, the daily report for 23 September says that we have 163 cases requiring oxygen support, and 23 cases in ICU. Some elective procedures will have to be postponed, as the government works on ramping up capacity for 1,600 ICU beds for Covid-19 cases. Those aged 50 and up are now eligible for booster shots — but you have to wait for the personalised booking link to be sent to you.

As Dale Fisher and Kenneth Mak write in this paper, this is all part of Singapore’s cautious, calibrated exit from the pandemic. This does make more sense to me than declaring a “Freedom Day”, but I can also relate to the people who are pissed off and tired, upset that we don’t seem to be treating Covid-19 as endemic like the government said we were going to. The Covid fatigue is real. 😫

I was recently watching the Hong Kong version of Ossan's Love and the shots of Hong Kong and Taipei gave me such feelz — I miss those two cities and all my friends there and also the food and also just travelling. 😭 Time to break out one of my most-used Telegram stickers:

Imprisoned workers and workplace accidents

Migrant workers are still locked up in their dormitories. Although there’s been a pilot that let a small number of workers out for a limited amount of time, that doesn’t help the vast majority of workers who remain imprisoned.

Dorm operators are worried about increased costs associated with the government's stricter, improved standards for dormitory conditions. I have limited sympathy for the larger dorm operators who have enjoyed large profit margins. As TWC2 points out, the cap of 12 people to a room isn't quite good enough, since that's still a lot.

Meanwhile, we also have a bunch of workplace injuries and deaths. An inquiry is ongoing into an explosion at Tuas — in which three were killed — earlier this year, and there's been another explosion, this time at the Tuas Incineration Plant. When are we going to do better for workers and their safety?

🪙 A fundraising call from Migrant Mutual Aid:

📑 The Anti-Racism Coalition Singapore (ARCS) is putting together a shadow report to submit to the UN Convention for Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. They’re doing a survey to gather more data and centre the voices and experiences of minority racial groups in Singapore. If you’re a person from a minority racial group who is living/has previously lived in Singapore, please take their survey. Please share this widely!

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.