Sunday, June 21, 2009

An Inconvenient Virus

The Influenza A H1Ni virus is not a deadly virus. Yes, it has killed more than 12,000 people worldwide, but I understand that this number pales in comparison to the numbers that die from the seasonal flu virus, which I caught last week, probably from someone in the MRT Train while going to work a week earlier. Yes, 2 weeks ago, I have had a person sit next to me who was sniffing mucus all the way to my destination. I optimistically hoped that he had a case of sinus. Then there was the case when a woman sneezed while standing next to me in the train. Fortunately, she didn't sneeze in my direction, but she was standing next to me.

With over a hundred people identified with H1N1 and not a single fatality in Singapore, people are beginning to treat H1N1 as a variety of the seasonal flu. Only this flu strain is so new that we don't have a vaccine against it yet. Some pharma companies have announced positive results towards a vaccine but we do have other drugs, such as Tamiflu and Relenza, which have proven effective against it.

Really, the problem with H1N1 is not that you die from it. The inconvenience is that you get 'jailed by association' for it - a minimum 7-day quarantine period - either on your own, or in government mandated locations. That means that you can't earn a living, you can't socialise, you can't see your kids or your husband/wife. (Well, ok, for some people, this can be a blessing). Nor do they want to see you during this 1-week jail time. And you get to go to this 'jail' not because you carry the virus, but that you have been in contact with a person or persons who carried the virus. That's why people are afraid of travelling - not that they will die, but that they will be locked up. So holidayers who have gone overseas over the last couple of school vacation weeks will be treated as a separate class of citizens once school starts. Some wouldn't be in school with the rest of their classmates.

One only hopes that these vacationeers won't 'elevate' those who have stayed home to that separate category of people. So I thought it ludicrous that people think they can 'get away' from these complications by their staycation plans. What if that staycation involved a 4-day 3-nights at the Swissotel the Stamford over the last weekend, or even into this week when more athletes from around the region show up at the hotel?

So staycation or vacation, it makes no difference in Singapore because Singapore brings the world to its doorsteps anyway. The only way to avoid the bug, whether of the seasonal variety or the H1N1, is to go to 'jail' - voluntarily. No turning right, no turning left, just go straight to jail. That's what most of us are already doing, anyway. What an inconvenient virus!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lucky blokes

I am envious, I really am green with envy. How come youth half my age get to stay in Swissotel the Stamford (Swissotel) when I can only either dream about it or break my bank otherwise? It would appear that Swissotel is going all out to accomodate and feed the participants and sportsmen/women of the Asian Youth Games (AYG). Not only that, they have reserved an entire floor at the Swissotel for its medical centre, ostensibly, to catch the H1N1 bug that threatens to infect the community at large, now that carriers have been found wandering the streets, the cafes, the theatres, the shopping centres and the workplace. Let it not be said that the Singapore government doesn't put its best foot forward in taking care of visiting athletes.

Only, who is paying for the bills at the Swissotel? Is business that bad at the Swissotel that they are willing to lower their prices and put in an extra beds a room, just for some young athletes who haven't even qualified for the Olympics? Heck, in most cases, athletes are housed in dormitories, or 3-star hotels at best, but when you come to Singapore, you get housed in one of its best hotels. Well, who said anything about lowering prices? I don't know, really. If room prices are not much lower than the normal rates (June happens to be a peak season, or shoulder, if you consider that the Asian Youth Games do not start until the end of June), then how would some impoverished nations, like North Korea, afford the bill? Unless sugar daddy Singapore is footing some of it? And that means I, as a taxpayer, am footing some of that bill. And to think I was never willing to break the bank for a stay in the Swissotel.

Why am I treating myself so shabbily? To think that some North Korean youth have stayed in the Swissotel before...

That said, would Raffles City Mall beside it become a ghost town now that everyone is put on notice that the hotel next to it is a potential hotbed of hotblooded young athletes and possibly the H1N1 bug? Yikes!