On 3 April 2020, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced a partial lockdown on the country to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Offices – except essential services – and schools were to be closed.
Restaurants, food courts and hawker centres would only offer takeaways. Cinemas, bars, gyms and other entertainment venues had already been closed since 26 March 2020 .
“The spirit of these measures is to get all of us to minimise physical contact. If we don’t go out, if we avoid contact with others, then the virus won’t be able to spread. It is as simple as that” the Prime Minister said some two weeks ago.
Later, Lee Hsien Loong added:
“If you really have no choice but to go out for food or necessities, make sure you wear a mask, and stay a safe distance away from everyone else. And don’t linger. Come home once you have completed your errand”.
All that seemed rather clear to everyone.
Except a member of his own People’s Action Party.
Last Sunday 12 April 2020, Dr Chia Shi Lu, a Member of Parliament of the Tanjong Pagar GRC visited a hawker centre in his ward to distribute face masks. The masks are actually to be self-collected at community centres.
A practicing medical doctor and surgeon, Dr Chia posted his walkabout on social media.
One netizen, Jason Cheng, referring to the upcoming general election, observed, “I didn’t know election campaigning on the ground is part of essential services”.
Dr Chia cannot be unfamiliar to what are essential services as on 7 April 2020, the Singapore Parliament of which he is a member, passed the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020.
To reduce the risk of infection, the new law even bans “all gatherings with family or friends who do not live together. Gatherings at home, public spaces (like HDB void decks and parks) are also banned”.
George Lim, a netizen, responded to Dr Chia’s post by saying that, ‘This is no time to go walkabout! Set an exemplary model and stay home unless you are there to buy food. We’re concerned! You should not be exempted & above the law.’
Germaine Ong, another netizen, had this to say about the parliamentarian’s post.
“Dr Chia, as a Tanjong Pagar constituent (for the past 11 years) I am concerned by this post. Given your position as my MP and as a member of the medical fraternity, I do hope you will take this feedback in the spirit in which it is given”.
The two days before Dr Chia went distributing masks at the hawker centre, on 10 & 11 April 2020, nearly 6,000 written warnings and 90 fines had been meted out by enforcement officers to the public who did not observe safe distancing measures.
It would seem the law does not apply to Dr Chia Shi Lu.
Singapore reported a record 386 new coronavirus cases yesterday, Monday 13 April 2020, taking the national total to 2,918.