Forum: Consider impact our actions have on the community

A discarded face mask at Toa Payoh Lorong 8 on Feb 12, 2020.
A discarded face mask at Toa Payoh Lorong 8 on Feb 12, 2020.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

In our anxiety to protect ourselves against the coronavirus, we should not overlook other good practices important for Singapore and its people.

Water use will surge with the increased frequency of hand-washing and cleaning, but we can help to save water by turning off the tap while scrubbing our hands.

Face masks should be used only when necessary as they add to the rubbish generated, which conflicts with the current push to reduce the amount of waste produced.

Indiscriminate disposal of masks also increases the spread of pathogens, posing a health threat, especially to our cleaners.

Used wipes should not be flushed down the toilet, as this will jam the sewer and hinder the proper disposal of sewage, critical at this time.

Individual acts can have an impact on the community.

The panic buying of provisions following the change of the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition to orange is one example.

It resulted in supermarket staff dealing with an increased workload. The staff at my regular supermarket worked till 1am on Saturday, as the crowds prevented them from shuttering at their usual 10pm on Friday.

Any infraction we cause will result in the police being diverted from more important security matters and the additional tasks they now have in helping with contact tracing and administering security at government quarantine facilities.

The Government, People's Association, Singapore Armed Forces and volunteers worked hard to deliver free masks to our neighbourhoods, but as of Saturday, only 54 per cent of households had collected them, so the deadline was extended (Coronavirus: Only 54% of households have collected masks, distribution extended till Feb 29, ST Online, Feb 9).

That means additional manpower and coordination will be needed, and time and resources were wasted during the previous distribution.

It was also a missed opportunity for the households that did not collect the masks to practise for future distribution of necessities should a serious emergency happen.

If all households had taken it more seriously, the authorities would also have more accurate data to assess the efficacy of the distribution and be able to tweak the system, if necessary.

We should not only thank but also think of the people at the forefront of this battle, and how our actions can affect them.

Agnes Sng Hwee Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2020, with the headline 'Consider impact our actions have on the community'. Subscribe