Dear PM Lee, where is your magic cup?

The magic cup is often on PM Lee's left as he speaks. A sip later, and he changes language.
The magic cup is often on PM Lee's left as he speaks. A sip later, and he changes language. PHOTO: PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICE/YOUTUBE

SINGAPORE - Eagle-eyed viewers on Saturday (Oct 9) zoomed in on a critical ingredient missing as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave updates on the Covid-19 situation - his magic cup.

More than 18 months have passed since the pandemic wreaked havoc around the world.

But people are not only starting to live with the virus, they are also looking for things to make them smile.

Like the meme that went, well, viral after PM Lee spoke at noon.

Why noon? Because he is not AM, but PM Lee.

On a Catholic Facebook group, a meme of Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, his hands in a steeple, was turned into a call to prayer. "Let us pray," it said.

In June, Mr Wong was the subject of another meme.

During a press conference by the multi-ministry task force tackling the pandemic, his fellow co-chairmen Gan Kim Yong, the Trade and Industry Minister, and Ong Ye Kung, the Health Minister, both "arrowed" Mr Wong to take a media question when they simultaneously turned and looked at him.

With announcements on quarantine-free travel - now to 11 countries - those bitten by the travel bug will have reason to smile again.

In 2019, Singaporeans made about 24.9 million overseas trips.

But back to that magic cup. It is there, often on PM Lee's left as he speaks.

A sip later, and he changes language.

The cup has a fan base online.

On May 31, when PM Lee spoke on Covid-19 measures, netizens noticed a different cup from the one he had used earlier in the year.

Both had a blue design, with the one in May sporting the tembusu flower from a tree the National Parks Board deemed heritage flora.

The tembusu is known for its resilience, dynamism, purpose, and usefulness. All adjectives that come to mind as PM Lee spoke of the need to keep calm and carry on.

About 98 per cent of those with Covid-19 have mild or no symptoms, he said.

He noted the two large groups of opinion on how to deal with the virus - one calling for a lockdown, and another that urges opening up more.

We must live with the virus and not be paralysed by fear, PM Lee said.

But there are others, finding humour as they learn to live with the virus that is not going away. Not just in Singapore.

In the Australian state of New South Wales, locals would read messages seemingly woven into the former state premier's winter coat amid a rise in cases there.

If Ms Gladys Berejiklian donned a long black coat, it was bad news. Blue would mean daily infection numbers were lower.

When Ms Berejiklian quit on Oct 1 amid an investigation by the corruption watchdog, supporters placed their coats on the walls and fences outside their homes in a show of support.

The state is coming out of a near three-month lockdown on Oct 11.

PM Lee on Saturday spoke for almost 30 minutes. No pink shirt, another trademark, and no sip of water.

Until the 19th minute.

This time, the magic was in the calming words, not a change of language.

"We are doing all we can to protect you and the healthcare system... We are with you and will give you our fullest support," he said.

On supermamastore.com, a likeness of the cup - made in Japan - sells for $38.

However, there is a greater likelihood of a holiday trip to Germany than getting one's hands on the cup.

Magic, the legendary language-changing porcelain cup, is sold out.