Forum: Unhygienic behaviour still common here

A view of the skyline in Singapore. PHOTO: REUTERS

Even as cases of the Wuhan virus have been reported in Singapore, the state of personal hygiene and civic-mindedness among the public still leaves much to be desired (20% of those infected could become severely ill: Expert, Jan 27).

As I queued in a crowded supermarket on Chinese New Year's Eve - the day after Singapore reported its first case of the virus - people could still be seen coughing into the open or into their hands, and then using the same hands to touch objects in the supermarket.

At the supermarket's information counter, I saw a woman wet her finger with her tongue to go through coupons before handing them over to the counter staff.

I am often flabbergasted when I see people leaving public toilets either without washing their hands with soap, or not even washing them at all. I am even more appalled when I notice from their uniforms that some offenders appear to work in eateries.

Such unhygienic behaviour is still common in Singapore, despite reminders from government agencies to the public to maintain personal hygiene to prevent the spread of germs.

In terms of personal hygiene and civic-mindedness, Singapore may be better than some countries. But in the wake of the Wuhan virus outbreak, it has become imperative that we raise our hygiene standards and be more mindful of our actions, rather than live life on autopilot and continue with unhygienic practices.

By being mindful and making small changes such as coughing into tissues rather than hands and washing our hands, we can all help to curtail the spread of the virus.

Companies, too, should play their part. For jobs that can be done remotely, companies should ask employees who are unwell to work from home until they have fully recovered, and extend this option to employees who have just returned from China for at least a week. Eateries need to ensure their staff maintain good hygiene habits, and not allow them to work when they are unwell.

Nobody knows when we can finally be rid of the Wuhan virus, but I hope that when that happens, we do not slip back into complacency, but come out of it with better hygiene standards and civic-mindedness.

Teo Leng Lee

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2020, with the headline Forum: Unhygienic behaviour still common here. Subscribe