Not long ago, Professor Tommy Koh stirred up a bucket of emotions by commenting that Singaporeans lack the social etiquette and civic-mindedness expected of a first world nation.
The coronavirus has certainly opened our eyes to how our society behaves in a pandemic. While our circuit breaker measures are designed to minimise human contact, some see this as a reason to figure out loopholes in order to do exactly the opposite.
Singaporeans love excuses to queue…
During a pandemic, it’s pretty much common sense to stay at home and out of shops, and especially out of crowded places, like queues. But nothing can really tear Singaporeans away from queues, really.
When Singapore went into DORSCON Orange, people rushed to their nearest NTUC to stock up on essentials. But actually, they just queued up to buy… toilet paper.
Singapore actually started a worldwide trend that saw toilet paper stocks run out in countries like Japan, Australia, and the USA.
And when it was announced that companies that sell non-essential things like furniture would have to close, people suddenly had a hankering for IKEA sofas and meatballs like their lives depended on them. So much so that they were willing to queue for hours.
By this time, we’re conditioned to brace for another snaking queue whenever our Prime Minister announces new closures. On Tuesday (April 21), it was the turn of bubble tea stalls.
Right on cue, snaking queues happened at every bubble tea franchise with people trying to get their hands on a drink before midnight. Even those who don’t drink bubble tea regularly were willing to wait hours.
Whether it’s at NTUC, IKEA, or bubble tea stalls, no one could recall Singaporeans queueing like this – not even during SARS.
Singaporeans are usually known to be law abiding citizens, but some people just feel rebellious.
The most recent case involves a Singaporean who returned from Thailand and violated his stay-home notice at a hotel 5 times – he left the room 3 times, and invited friends into his room twice.
One of the first prosecuted cases for violating quarantine order was the guy went to eat bak kut teh the day he arrived in Singapore from Myanmar.
Another offender was a 22-year old who left his home to go to a neighbourhood mall 30 minutes before his quarantine was officially over.
Then there was this guy who flouted his quarantine order to return to Batam despite being warned not to do so. When he returned to Singapore, he was served a second quarantine order and his passport was cancelled.
Masks are not just for heroes
Even if it wasn’t mandated, wearing a mask does help stem the spread of the coronavirus. However, there are plenty of people who don’t seem to get the idea of why we should wear one, or even how to (tip: it’s not supposed to be worn on chins).
Some try to get away from wearing them by putting on workout clothes and pretend to be ‘strenuously exercising’ – like walking or sitting on a yoga mat.
Let’s not forget the issue of littering – masks are now the new trash trend. Nowadays, littered masks on the sides of pavements are a more common sight than fallen underwear at the bottom of HDB blocks.
Headbutting, punching, and spitting
Bad behaviors seem to be commonplace. For example, in the most recent debacle, a woman claimed to be a sovereign – she also defied police and caused a commotion – in order to avoid adhering to social distancing or wearing a mask.
Before that was a woman who was filmed hurling verbal abuse and spitting at a KFC employee in NEX, presumably because she didn’t like waiting for her order.
Let’s not forget other members of the public who dished out slaps, punches, vulgarities, and even a headbutt to some 3,000 safe distancing ambassadors and enforcement officers – all because they refused to adhere to safe distancing rules.
Socialising and exercising a new trend
It seemed that when measures were undertaken to limit close contact between individuals, you’d think people would understand the reason why. Unfortunately not everyone got the memo.
In the beginning of the circuit breaker period, people still gathered in groups at National Parks like Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and MacRitchie TreeTop Walk. Meanwhile, families were having picnics at East Coast Park. Thanks to these people, all beaches, including East Coast Park had to be closed until further notice.
Just take a look at the recent crowd at Bedok Reservoir:
And people wonder why we can’t have nice things. Instead of adhering to the simple rules of social distancing to flatten the curve, people are actively trying to find loopholes.
The idea that Singapore is a first world country with third world citizens doesn’t apply to everyone, but it certainly proves true for some.
As our PM has said: “Remember: it is not just about adhering to the letter of the law. The spirit of the guidelines is to reduce movement to a minimum, and to avoid being out and about in the community. This is the way to protect yourself, your family and everyone else.”