A FEW days ago, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke to his people (posted on his Instagram account) appraising the Singaporeans on the nCoV infection sweeping parts of the globe.
Outside of China, Singapore is one of the most affected: 40 confirmed cases as of this writing, with some evidence of community spread. Just as bad, four Britons in a resort in France were confirmed to have the virus, apparently acquired from contact with a traveler who had come from Singapore and who had stayed in the same resort facility.
No wonder that the Singaporean government raised their alert level to orange, similar to what they had with SARS. As one of the world’s busiest transport (and cargo) hubs, Singapore is visited by tens of millions in a year, a considerable number of whom come from Mainland China.
Watching the PM, I (though not a Singaporean) was left with a sense that while the situation was shifting day to day, the government was doing its best to remain on top of things and, just as important, doing its best to keep the people informed. The latter is critical if the public is not to be tipped into panic mode, which can happen in a flash with just one or two social media posts that go viral. What better environment for a misinformed panicky public than one where people are kept in the dark?
Or distrustful of government?
Which is the problem in Hong Kong. The government of Carrie Lam has been laboring under heavy criticism from Hong Kong residents long before the nCov came to fire, with the criticisms centered around her being more protective of the interests of Beijing than of Hong Kong. With the nCov outbreak, Lam came under renewed – and even heavier – pressure to protect Hong Kong against the new threat from the mainland. And that’s why she has ordered border crossings closed effective end of January when all rail links to China were halted.
Health workers in Hong Kong added to the pressure by going on strike to press this demand.
Which brings me to the Philippines. I am happy that so far we have only 3 confirmed cases despite having so many visitors from Mainland China arriving in the month of January, but
I share the concern of some friends about the ability of our health authorities to come out with a real number.
I also wonder how well we enforce quarantine restrictions, especially the “voluntary” ones which should mean a person stays home and does not go about town potentially infecting others.
Singapore has reported cases of community spread. Let’s hope they contain that and soon.
I think the Philippines should brace for a similar eventuality because it’s always better to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
Finally, I hope this is not a case where government doesn’t want the real number of cases reported. It’s happened before at a time of crisis, let it not happen again.