We’re about 19 days away from May 4. For Star Wars fans, it’s a day to celebrate the victory of good over evil. For Singapore residents, it’s the day the Covid-19 Circuit Breaker (CCB) measures are supposed to end.
Granted, the past 10 days of the CCB haven’t been all that pleasant. Even more so if you’re WFH-ing and HBL-ing with your school-going children. I’ve read about the frustrations online.
In WhatsApp/Telegram groups and social media, eager beavers are counting down to May 5. Many anticipate meeting extended families and friends. Some can’t wait to get their hair and nails done. Fitness buffs are muscling to hit the gym again. Exhausted parents are looking forward to school, tuition centres, and swim classes. Jittery Ah Peks pine to rejoin 4D and TOTO queues, and to slurp their kopi siu dais with their kakis.
For most of us, we just want to get out, bin our face masks, breathe some fresh air, and roll in the freaking grass.
Let me, um, spoil it for you. It may not happen. Here are my thoughts.
Look at where we are this week: 447 new cases on April 15, 334 on April 14, and 386 the day before. We’re far from hitting our peak. Even if we do, the gradual decline will take some time as well. It’s not going to be a cliff-drop to zero cases overnight, and even when we do eventually hit zero, we need a buffer period to wait it out and stay there, say another week or two.
Maybe by then, some non-essential services may resume in stages, but not all of them at once. For now, the least we can hope for is daily infected cases to trend downwards.
So the only curve we’re flattening at the moment is our rationale.
While the bulk of our cases is due to massive Covid-19 testing of foreign workers in our dormitories, it’s going to be challenging to contact-trace everyone they’ve met within and outside their clusters.
Also, we’re still seeing many local residents, young and old, breaking CB and social distancing measures. There’s now even an app where residents can bao toh others who break these rules.
With random CB violators, a worrying unlinked case count, and an increasing daily infected case report, new measures are bound to be introduced, and quite quickly too.
Five days after the CB started on April 7, a new measure was announced where anyone entering supermarkets and malls had to wear a face mask. A week later, it became more stringent: no one could leave their homes without wearing one (with exceptions for children under two and “strenuous runners”). A fine of S$300 will now be imposed on anyone who breaks the law the first time.
When I wrote about panic-buying due to DORSCON Orange in mid-Feb, I was one of the few who wore a face mask whenever I had one. My theory was that if I did not protect myself, I might be exposed to an asymptomatic “spreader”, which may cause a chain reaction of infections. At that time, few saw the probability of that happening (and the prioritised mask debate was still ongoing). In the streets, one in thirty people I encountered wore a face mask. Today, it’s 100%.
If our daily infected cases do not come down dramatically by May 4, the CCB period will probably be extended (my guess is they’ll be in two-week time frames). Mentally, we need to prepare for this.
Take Malaysia for instance. They’re already in Phase 3 of their MCO (it’s barely a month since March 18). They’ve implemented roadblocks, immediate arrests, and grocery-buying curfews. The fine of RM1,000 for those who violate the MCO wasn’t enough, so now the government has no choice but to detain anyone who disobeys.
In Singapore, we’re far from seeing that happen, but we’re only 10 days into our CCB.
Personally, I think there will be some residents who will defy the rules even if it means getting a S$300 fine. Some “strenuous joggers” might continue to overcrowd pavements without face masks, which could effectively bring a ban on this activity as well. We’ve already seen this happen with beaches and stadium tracks. It’s just a wait-and-see.
Next, there will be some trimming of essential services. It could happen to “shades of grey” essential services. Right now, we don’t know what’s grey, really. Barbershops, hardware stores, optical shops, vet services, bus and train services, and that favourite food outlet where the queue is always so very long one? Who’s to say what’s black-and-white essential and what’s grey?
Another reason for this could be the stop on cross-deployment or movement of workers across workplace premises (eg. different branches). We’re already seeing NTUC Income closing some of its lite and service branches until further notice from 15 and 16 April.
So be prepared for a reduction of some sort—be it routes, operating hours, or branch availability (if it hasn’t happened yet). The ones to close will do so for safety reasons. Before you step out and mask up, you might have to plan your trip efficiency.
I went to the barber just yesterday. I was not allowed to remove my face mask. It was a painful experience to watch, both for me and the barber. I had hair strands sticking out of my mask, stinging my eyes. But, I would rather go through that than trim my own hair because I’m shit with a pair of scissors. Who knows? We might see more bad-hair-day folks on Zoom/Hangout over the next couple of weeks.
If social distancing measures continue to be violated (eg. people bunching up outside food stalls waiting to collect their takeaways or supermarkets failing to prevent customers from clustering in shopping aisles), there may be further restrictions on who actually gets to enter these premises.
It could be a limit on how many household members can leave their house for essential services. Or a curfew where essential service stores are open only for stipulated hours.
If new and larger clusters appear outside of dormitory zones (at this time, 9 are gazetted isolation zones throughout Singapore), we may see lockdowns of areas by blocks and streets.
When this happens, no one within those areas will be allowed to leave their homes. They will only be able to order food and groceries via delivery, and pick up from designated areas at staggered times. We’ve seen this in Wuhan. Don’t discount the fact that it may happen here.
In short, while these things haven’t happened yet, they might if three things continue:
one, there continues to be CB violators who don’t give a fuck about that S$300 fine;
two, our daily infected case rate continues to go up or remain in the triple digits for consecutive days;
three, our unlinked cases continue to haunt us, with new clusters appearing outside of dorms.
I know it’s painful to be cooped up at home, occasionally throw up your arms to say, “Fuck it! I’m going outside! I don’t care!”
But, if everyone in every housing block thinks the same way as you, chances are, we’re going to be breathing fresh air and rolling in our freaking grass much, much later than we think.
So do your part guys. Prove me wrong please.