This week, Singapore marked its highest single-day spike in Covid-19 community cases since April last year, with the bulk of them arising from a cluster tied to several KTV outlets and hostesses. If not dealt with firmly, the outbreak here threatens to replicate the experience of South Korea and Hong Kong, where the easy proximity promoted by the nightlife scene led to large clusters. KTV lounges here were ordered closed more than a year ago, but were then allowed to pivot and apply to operate as food and beverage outlets earlier this year. Still, a number of them appear to have offered additional services with hostesses. The emergence now of a growing cluster is a disappointing step back that could delay the onset of a wider reopening of activities here given that several operators, and patrons, persisted with irresponsible behaviour.
That hurts the prospects of the entertainment industry and the health of society at large. Certainly, the KTV cluster is not the only one to have posed a threat. The recent emergence of the Changi and Bukit Merah clusters attests to the nature of the Delta variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, which is extremely transmissible. Still, a distinction has to be made between places where people congregate in the course of their everyday lives and work, and places of entertainment which must observe stricter protocols. KTV lounges and operators who deliberately skirt the rules, engage hostesses and allow unfettered mixing among them and patrons, must face the full weight of the law for disregarding safe distancing and other rules.
There is something to be said too of the patrons involved for throwing caution to the wind and for their lack of social responsibility. The spread and ballooning of cases attest to the irresponsibility and selfishness of their actions. They have endangered themselves, families, work colleagues and wider society. Contact tracing in some instances has been made harder since patrons could be unwilling to admit they visited such outlets. Such attitudes create a nightmare for contract tracing, which is one of the keys to fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Patrons should exercise social responsibility now by coming forward to get themselves tested. Assurances that tests are confidential should alleviate their fears. The testing exercise is not a moral witch-hunt but an epidemiological exercise to contain any further spread.
Questions have been raised too about the presence of such lounge hostesses here, and the need for the authorities to exercise not just stricter border controls but also to tighten the issuance of work, visit and other permits which could be misused. Permit holders who violate terms, and individuals and businesses who abet such entry under false pretences must be brought to book. The KTV cluster provides a dire warning to all that the battle against the virus is far from over.