By Rebecca Metteo, Managing Editor (Operations)
In March 2020, WHO officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic as it has hit many countries substantially outside of Mainland China. The widespread COVID-19 cases saw many countries struggling to tackle the disease simultaneously with other national priorities, such as the economy, employment issues and the healthcare system.
Beyond these systematic impacts, the daily lives of low-income workers or those in the gig economy have been particularly impacted. We cannot afford a lockdown, at least for now.
For some, life stops
In a bid to slow down the spread of the coronavirus within communities, countries like Malaysia and India had quickly enforced lockdowns to reduce the movements of their citizens. While a lockdown may be useful to prevent accelerated transmission of the disease, its downsides should not be overlooked - particularly, the disruptions it will pose to the lives of many.
Malaysia’s lockdown provides a clear example. Upon announcement of the lockdown, we witnessed many Malaysian workers based in Singapore scrambling to return to their home country, while others had made the difficult decision of leaving their families behind and continued working in Singapore. Why? Because they were at risk of getting their work permits cancelled, which would leave them jobless and jeopardise their income flows.
Many made such a decision even knowing that they would not have a place to stay for some time. Thankfully, they received some help, with the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore providing accommodation for those who had chosen to remain in the city-state.
But if we were to go into lockdown, life stops but living continues - people need income to buy food, afford transport, rentals and the likes. As such, those who earn on a day-to-day basis such as delivery jobs, drivers, shift-work, self-employed workers and more would find it challenging, if we were to suddenly go into lockdown. While most of us may still be working from home and payrolls are still getting into our bank at the end of the month, it is not quite the same for the daily wage-earners. They too, have mouths to feed and responsibilities to shoulder.
Not the best solution
While a lockdown could aid the efforts at slowing down COVID-19’s spread, it may not appear to be the best solution. Several concerns remain regarding this potential lockdown. For example, how long will it take for its benefits to take effect? 2 weeks? 1 month? 2 months? Or, even longer? If so, how would this impact the livelihoods of people?
Should all the countries hit with COVID-19 come forward and reach a consensus on the best timeframe for their respective lockdowns and actually do it together? Is it possible? There are too many uncertainties and questions.
Until the bulk of these gets sorted, a call for a lockdown is not a convenient solution and should not be made hastily. It will have numerous implications, be it for Singapore as a whole or families and individuals in society.
How can we play a part during these tenuous times? We should continue to support our frontline healthcare workers, ensuring that they are motivated and well-protected while fighting the pandemic. More importantly, we need to be socially responsible by taking social distancing measures seriously, refrain from engaging in extensive interactions with others and minimize heading out unless absolutely necessary. If you are sick, please do not go to work until you recover.
Keep good hygiene and take care, my fellow Singaporeans!
(Edited by Nicole Foo, Managing Editor (Administrations))
Rebecca is the Managing Editor (Operations) for The Convergence. She finds joy in the company of good books, movies and her beloved dog. An early riser, you can find her awake at dawn but rarely past midnight!