An online petition calling on the Singapore government to “temporarily stop” Chinese nationals and travellers from China from entering the country has received more than 103,000 signatures in two days.
Couched in the language of a health and public safety issue, the petition emerged as the Wuhan virus spread intensified worldwide, with most cases of infection and death concentrated in Hubei, China.
A similar petition emerged in Malaysia a day earlier on Jan. 25, where it has attracted close to 400,000 signatures so far.
Even as the petition is unlikely to effect change in public policy in Singapore, it has attracted one response calling out its logic.
Former Nominated Member of Parliament, Calving Cheng, has written a Facebook post rationalising why the petition is flawed.As pointed out by Cheng, the current facts on the ground indicate that the current concentration of cases is in Hubei.
Banning Chinese travellers from elsewhere of their huge country from leaving and coming to Singapore would be "overkill", Cheng wrote.
He added: "For example, Shanghai has a population of 25 million. There have been 40 cases, all from Wuhan, and 1 fatality. Should we ban all 25 million Shanghainese from coming to Singapore?"
Ban Hubei travellers only
Cheng wrote that it would, however, make sense if a ban was applied to "all travel of people to and from Hubei".
And this is consistent with what is happening on the ground, as Singapore is banning Hubei travellers from entering the country from Jan. 29, 12pm.
Currently, as it stands, there are no international flights out of Hubei ever since the Chinese government locked down Wuhan, the provincial capital.
There was only one direct flight between Wuhan and Singapore on Scoot, but this flight has been also suspended from the China side.
Countries that have expressed explicitly they are banning flights from Wuhan are engaging in "political theatre", Cheng wrote in an earlier post on Jan. 27.
This was so as no flights were already coming out of Wuhan and any additional statements on bans will play to "irrational panic".
Think about the converse
Moreover, Singapore's approach to Chinese travellers should be viewed from the perspective of relationships between nations.
In the event that there is a Singaporean who got infected with the Wuhan virus, Singapore's previous conduct of banning travellers might result in other countries using the same tactic on Singapore, a view that was also echoed by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung.
This would be tantamount to putting an "economic embargo" on Singapore as people here are prevented from visiting other countries for work and leisure.
Cheng wrote: "If it hits Singapore, and we have even 1 case, how would we like being banned from travelling out of Singapore by other countries?"
"The Chinese nationals would still have a vast country to explore. If this happens to us, and because of a few sick people the rest of us can’t even go to JB, and we are trapped on this tiny island of ours, we would finally know what boring is."
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