Show more understanding towards returning students: Local undergrad

Singapore — Amidst the spike in imported Covid-19 cases, there has been criticism that those returning, especially the Singapore students who came home recently, should have done so earlier.

One first-year local undergrad, writing an opinion piece anonymously on, a news and media site specialising in longform journalism, makes the case for Singaporeans to “complain less” about imported student cases. “Winning the battle against Covid-19 doesn’t have to come at the cost of our soul,” the person said.

Earlier this month, the number of Covid-19 cases added daily were in the single digits or low to mid-teens, but by the middle of the month, the number added daily showed a noticeable increase — 47 on March 18, 32 on March 19, 40 on March 20, and so on. On March 25, Singapore saw its highest spike yet on a single day, with 73 confirmed cases added.

Nearly 75 per cent of the new cases have been imported cases involving young Singaporeans, leading to fears of additional incidents of community spread.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had on March 17 urged all Singaporean students to return. Shortly after, there were 1,200 people returning from the United Kingdom and the United States every day.

The writer, who studies in a local university and is friends with many of the returning students, points out that studying overseas comes with its own challenges — from xenophobic incidents, to inadequate health systems overseas, to uncertainty from their universities as to how long the school suspension would last.

“Our students risked being neglected and stranded alone, with no family or friends to take care of them.” 

With the nation facing a recent spike in Covid-19 patients, some people have called the returnees reckless individuals who deserve punishment, since they failed to return earlier. Other netizens say these new cases would wear on the country’s healthcare system, and could bring about a prolonged community spread.

The writer included screenshots of such remarks on social media, and then endeavoured to explain the actions of the returning students.

For one thing, if the school break due to the virus had been short, they would not have opted to return anyway, given the cost of flights home. “These considerations are obviously important ones, since students owe it to their parents and their financial sponsors to be responsible. They can’t just pack up and leave, and them staying for as long as they did was the right thing to do.”

Next, the writer appealed on behalf of the students, who are Singaporeans’ “sons, daughters, brothers and sisters”.

“To turn our back on them and let them be at the mercy of barely-coping healthcare systems (like the N.H.S.) is inherently wrong. The state has a responsibility to take care of all its citizens, regardless of who they are, or where they live. In fact, many of these Singaporean students grew up in the same HDB blocks as you, went to the same schools as you, and are just like you. Imagine if you were banned from entering your own country. Your friends and family would be so worried for you.”

The writer warned against going into an us-versus-them way of thinking, thus unfairly assigning blame. There is no need, the person wrote, to turn one’s back on fellow Singaporeans.

“These are true tests of our character and if we continue to try and segregate our population, we would have failed. While disagreeing with the government is part and parcel of politics, turning our backs on fellow Singaporeans definitely shouldn’t be.” /TISG

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