A sky infinity pool at the Marina Bay Sands casino commercial facility, a symbol of wealth in Singapore that is popular with Japanese people. The symbol of Singapore, which the world's millionaire loves and cannot stop, was forced to close in front of Corona (photographed by the author).

Enlarged photo


“The lessons learned from SARS were used to respond quickly.” “The medical system is excellent.” There is a voice that evaluates “Singapore”, the honor student in Southeast Asia in the subtropical region, according to Corona’s response. However, coming here, the number of infected people per 100,000 people far surpassed that of China and South Korea to become the top of Asia, and the total number of infected people in Japan also passed. Moreover, the number continues to rise without rising like a “soft curve” like in other countries, and the spread of infection, also called the “second wave”, occurs due to the delay in the initial movement. Ms. Megumi Suenaga, a journalist familiar with the situation in Southeast Asia, reports on the situation.

***

The number of infected people in Singapore with a population of 5.7 million exceeded 10,000 on April 22. Particularly noteworthy is the speed of increase since the beginning of April. By the time of April 1, there were about 1,000 people.

A sky infinity pool at the Marina Bay Sands casino commercial facility, a symbol of wealth in Singapore that is popular with Japanese people. The symbol of Singapore, which the world’s millionaire loves and cannot stop, was forced to close in front of Corona (photographed by the author).

The first person to be infected was confirmed on January 23, and the number of infected persons was updated at the three-digit level almost every day in April, when there were dozens in late March. That is, the first two weeks are sharp, and the rate of increase is 180%. The number of new infections on the 20th was 1,426, the largest increase in the number of visitors.

Lim Teen, leader of the opposition party “People’s Voice”, a lawyer who is attracting attention for posting on SNS, said on his YouTube channel.

“At first, the government explained that the increase in the number of infected people was the effect of returning groups such as Europe, but the truth is different. For example, 72 out of 142 new infected people on April 8 In addition, 98% of infected people are infected domestically. Secondary and tertiary infections have become a large cluster, damaging the community. “

As I mentioned in the previous article, “[New Corona]Singapore has the second largest number of infected people after Japan: Three mistakes in which the honor student in Asia spread the damage” (delivered on February 27), Out of about 100 people, only 18 were infected from Wuhan, China. The “second to third person-to-person transmission” that Prime Minister Lee Shenlong had denied would have happened.

According to a survey by Johns Hopkins University in the United States, the number of infected people per 100,000 population in Singapore was “30” until a few weeks ago, but it increased sharply to “180”. Japan has 10 people. It is the largest country in Asia, surpassing “5” in China and “20” in South Korea (both as of April 25).

On April 26, the number of infected people in Singapore exceeded Japan. However, it may be wondering if it is meaningful to pick up Singapore, because there are other countries that suffer the damage of corona. Initially, however, Singapore’s response was only evaluated, and its “head” was worth examining.

The highest evaluation was praised by the WHO (World Health Organization) Executive Secretary Tedros, who is “the person of the time”. It’s just vacant now, but as of March 9, “the coronal pandemic has become a reality,” “but control is possible,” Tedros said. The countries cited as examples of successful control of infection were China and Singapore. Considering the impact on the economy, he praised the “Singapore method” as an example of being able to control infected persons without having to take measures such as lockdowns in Japan to prevent going out.

/> Mr. Tedros’s attitude toward China is known, not to mention the attack by President Trump. Singapore, which is “closer” to China, may be treated in the same way (though there is a background that Singapore’s attitude toward China leads to the spread of infections …. That was the same as I mentioned in the previous article).

The current status of “Southeast Asian honor student” praised by the WHO top may be easier to understand when compared to neighboring Malaysia.

Malaysia, with a population of approximately 34 million, had long been the largest number of infected people in Southeast Asia since mid-March, but has now fallen to the fourth largest number in the region (instead, Singapore became the largest infected region in the region). , Indonesia and Philippines continue). Malaysian government officials are relieved to this by saying, “There are times when the number of recovered persons exceeded the total number of infected persons, and the pass was exceeded.”

The population is about 6 times that of Singapore, but Malaysia is showing signs of ending. Not surprisingly, the number of new infections is far below that of Singapore (36 in Malaysia and 1426 in Singapore, compared April 22).

It may be pointed out that Singapore has a large number of infected people because it conducts sufficient tests. In fact, the number of inspections reported by the Philippines’ largest broadcasting station “ABS-CBN” on April 15 was “About 81,000 in Malaysia, about 47,000 in increasing Singapore, about 25,000 in the Philippines” Considering the total population, it seems that inspections are being promoted in Singapore.

However, what about the “recovery rate” from corona infection? Singapore is 8%, China is about 94%, South Korea is 79%, and Malaysia is 62%. Looking at Europe and America, Italy has 30% and Spain 40%, both of which have higher recovery rates than Singapore. Singapore has a much lower recovery than the international standard of about 28%. This may be because the number of new infections is increasing and the medical system is not catching up. A ruling party official worries about the collapse of medical care, saying, “If infection continues to spread, it will lead to a lack of medical resources.”

In China, South Korea and even Italy, the pace of infection slowed down, and the graph showing the increase shows a “soft curve”. However, in the case of Singapore, this movement has not been seen since the first infected person was discovered on January 23, and it has been rising. For the past 100 days or so, new infections have not renewed the previous day’s number in January and February only, according to the Singapore Ministry of Health. In Japan, the situation is similar in some cases, but in the case of Japan, 16 days are from the first infected person on January 16 to the time when a new infected person was not updated. The scale is different between Japan with 126 million people and Singapore with 5.7 million people. The land area of ​​Singapore is about the same as Awaji Island in Japan, and it takes less than an hour to drive around the country. The population is also in the Nagoya area level. It’s a story despite a small city-state that’s extremely easy to quarantine.

Badness at the cluster site

Medical staff said the situation in Singapore was “a surge, especially since the end of March, overshoot. We need to be vigilant.” Dean Theo Ying-In, Dean of the Department of Public Health, National University of Singapore, also told Reuters, “There is a sharp increase in the number of single-infection cases and sporadic infection trends in the community, which makes it out of control. It is a worrying situation. “

Singapore, like Japan, is a country with scarce resources. However, the biggest difference is that about 40% of the total working population (announced by the Ministry of Human Resources Development) of about 3.8 million people depends on foreign workers. Behind the rapid increase in infected people here is a large cluster of 300,000 nationally recognized foreign workers.

The stage was a dormitory where foreign workers live. There are 43 such facilities in Singapore, and due to the cluster, about 200,000 people are currently in isolation. It has already been said that “20,000 people may be infected” (for example, in foreign media), but if the number of people is so large, the inspection cannot be done in time and it is difficult to understand. The government is currently constructing a temporary hospital in the harbor development area with beds capable of accommodating more than 15,000 corona-infected foreign workers at a rapid pace. The total number of infected foreign workers is estimated to exceed 80% of all infected persons in Singapore.

Many foreign workers are from South Asia such as India and Bangladesh. Their monthly salary is about S $ 600 (about 45,000 yen), and the skyscrapers in Singapore were built by them. During my stay in Singapore, I often see them heading to the construction site, sitting in the truck bed in the early morning. As you can imagine, their low-wage dormitory environment is poor.

“The dormitory has no air conditioner or windows, and the workers say” it’s like a prison, “and it’s in a poor condition where about 12 people sleep in a room about 4 square meters. It will happen ”(Alex Au, a human rights protection organization)

“Particularly bad hygiene, there is a trash can, but it is too small, and there is trash in the corridor, and it is thrown out. There is no toilet paper or toilet paper, and there is a bad odor.” Person, Mr. Alex Tan)

In addition, the human rights group Amnesty International also said, “I have repeatedly warned the Singapore government of the dangers of poor environment, but they have not been dealt with. It is exactly” Recipe for Disaster “. “I have expressed concern. A prominent former diplomat Tommy Koh, who served as the UN ambassador to Singapore, also criticized severely, saying, “It’s a terrible situation like in the Third World. It seems to have a time bomb.”

The public opinion may have influenced, the Singapore government announced the blockade of the dormitory, but it goes without saying that the Singapore government is responsible for oversight.

Actually, there were signs as of early February. A foreign worker from Bangladesh who stays overnight in a dormitory visited a hospital complaining of poor physical condition, but he was returned without sufficient examination. He was later found to be shopping at a large commercial facility and in contact with other workers in a closed dormitory, but later became sick and was admitted to the hospital on February 7. The next day, a corona positive test was issued. It cannot be denied that he was the origin of the cluster.

This is not the first time that a foreign worker in a poor environment has caused a large spread of illness. When there were more than 250 Zika cases in Singapore in 2016, 36 people, or 90% of the early confirmed cases, were foreign workers working at these construction sites. In 2008, Chikungunya fever was another epidemic among workers, and in the same year, a chicken pox infection also spread and one worker died. The person in charge of lodging has been sentenced to imprisonment.

According to the author’s interview, such a dormitory is more responsible for the government because the construction company, which is the supporting body of the PAP (People’s Action Party), which maintains the one-party dictatorship, has been undertaken with a large margin. It may be.

Despite this, despite all this, the tragedy started again.

Wearing a mask over the mask

Then, what kind of response has the government taken? -The great change in corona countermeasures that we showed in April was shocking and shocking not only to the people but also to neighboring countries.

Implemented from April 7th is a one month lockdown (city blockade). The government has stubbornly denied this effect because it has supported the country’s economic development. It has now closed businesses, stores and schools outside of the industries required for daily life.

How did you want to avoid lockdown? This can be seen from the fact that the Singapore government uses not the lockdown but the financial term “circuit breaker” that suspends trading when the stock price changes suddenly . The name may be intended to keep the appearance, but it goes without saying that it is a de facto lockdown.

The famous casino commercial facility “Marina Bay Sands” was also closed for the first time since its establishment. Here at the Sands, clusters have occurred at the famous sky bar “Se La Bi” and restaurants at the end of March, which also served as a trigger for the government to make a lockdown decision. A friend in Singapore said, “I heard that Sands was going to close, and I realized the importance of it.” But it is a “national symbol” and the “symbol of wealth in Singapore,” which is usually overflowing with Chinese people, is closed. If so, the psychological shock of Prime Minister Lee would be immeasurable.

In addition to the lockdown, the response regarding the “mask” also showed a 180-degree shift.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially admitted that masks protect against about 70% of infections in April, but in Taiwan and Hong Kong where SARS was experienced, both the public and private sectors wore masks. , I did not mistake the initial corona countermeasure. On the other hand, despite being a country with the same SARS, the Singapore government did not complain of the need for a mask as “ineffective” or “it’s okay after the symptoms appear” as of January. why. Trade Minister Jang Chun Singh said at a private meeting with the Chamber of Commerce on February 10 that “ the lack of masks and encouraging them would result in a shortage of medical personnel and a collapse of medical treatment. There was a fuss that the recording of the proceedings that had been said was leaked. The government feared panicking for a mask. If the infection has spread so much, then there is no child or child. It can be said that the attitude of “no mask” was wrong.

I remember when I visited Singapore at the end of January, I was surprised that even immigration officers at the airport weren’t wearing masks, even though the infection had already been confirmed in Japan at this time. See my article published by Courier Japon “Are you making the most of your experience with SARS? Dependence on the Chinese economy-The melancholy of Singapore, a tourist nation hit by a new virus.”

Returning from the view that “a mask is not necessary if there is no symptom”, suddenly in the middle of the night of April 11th, “mandatory” to put on a mask when going out was announced. If you violate it, you will be fined $ 300 without warning, so the opposite is true.

This is what the Democratic Party leader of the Singapore Democratic Party, Qi Soonjuan, said, “Mr. Lee (the prime minister) suddenly showed the public a picture in which all the cabinets wore masks that he had denied until now, and he said,” Mask mandate. ” The fatal mistake I made in combating corona was that I didn’t encourage wearing masks or regulate outing at an early stage, “criticizes the YouTube channel.

/> This kind of fuss over masks … On April 13, Taiwanese president Cai Ying-wen, who was concerned about the lack of masks in various countries, announced that he would donate 1 million copies to Singapore and 10 million copies to Singapore. In addition, Lee’s wife, Ho Chin, wrote a sarcastic comment on her Facebook page, instead of saying thankful “Errr …”. This attitude caused the people of Taiwan and the media to show anger, which caused a great flame.

Major Taiwanese media such as TVBS are about Ho

“In rich Singapore, you probably don’t need a mask.”

Criticized. Also touch on her biography,

“Mr. Ho is not just the wife of the Prime Minister. He is the CEO (CEO) of“ Tamasek, ”a government-owned investment company that owns large Singapore companies such as Singapore Airlines, and has an annual income of S $ 100 million (¥ 7.5 billion). You don’t need a mask from Taiwan. ”

”And so on.

By the way, my husband’s prime minister, Lee, also received an extremely high salary, and his annual salary was S $ 2.2 million (¥ 160 million, government survey in September 2018). Ministers also have the highest annual bar in the world, with 100 million units. “The Singaporean cabinet is the highest-paid government in the world and has been ridiculed as” crazy rich salary “for a long time,” Tan said. Considering the future of Corona’s stumbling block ahead of the general election, it is inevitable that politicians will receive high salaries. After all, the spread of corona infection caused by economic priority could lead to the worst negative growth.

As of March 26, before the lockdown, the Singapore government had announced that the real economic growth rate for this year would be “down from 4% to 1%.” According to data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Singapore’s growth rate during the Asian currency crisis in 1998 was minus 2.2%. It’s inevitable that it will be more than 1998, as the government’s outlook does not include the effects of lockdowns. Economic analysts say the economic outlook is dim and may lead to an economic collapse since independence.

Bloomberg also posted on April 10,

“Singapore may have come to pay the price as a result of trying to minimize its negative economic impact.”

After comparing with Hong Kong,

“In the long run, it shows that taking early and tough social distance measures (such as lockdowns) can be beneficial to the economy.”

I said.

On April 21, Prime Minister Lee issued an urgent statement. Lockdown, which was supposed to be until May 4, will be extended until June 1.

What is transparent to the government’s response is the attitude that only foreign workers are spreading the infection. You may want to publicize that “Singapore people are okay” ahead of the general election, but the number of new infections excluding foreign workers is actually higher than in neighboring countries such as Malaysia.

_ Ironically, Singapore’s stance of economic priority could lead to an economic crisis since its independence in 1965.

Megumi Suenaga
Malaysian resident journalist. Belongs to Malaysia Foreign Correspondents Press Club. After studying in the United States (acquiring a US government scholarship), joined the Sankei Shimbun. He is a member of the press club of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, etc. After that, he became independent and became a freelance journalist. In addition to interviewing activities, he has also served as a Associate Professor at Osaka University and a visiting professor at the University of Malaya.

Edited by Weekly Shincho WEB Interview Group

Published April 28, 2020