Monday 3 May 2021

Coronavirus pandemic: How Bloomberg and a bunch of Harvard nerds jinxed Singapore

Dear Bloomberg,

Let me first say, I’m not a superstitious person.

But I can’t help but notice a pattern – and not the badminton kind.

Someone saying something good about our MRT usually results in something bad happening to our MRT.

I wrote a column about this back in 2015.

Early that year, SMRT won some Global Risk Award for “delivering value through risk management” in London. The presenter was actress Joanna Lumley, star of Absolutely Fabulous.

The award was followed days later by a spate of MRT-related incidents that included a fire, a man walking on the tracks and a girl getting her leg stuck in the platform gap.

Which made the award absolutely ironic.

Months later, then SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek boasted about that and another award during the company’s annual general meeting, saying: “These external endorsements are important signals that we are on the right track in bringing the group to higher levels of excellence in every field.”

This was followed mere hours later by what was described as “possibly the worst MRT breakdown Singapore has experienced”, affecting the East-West Line, North-South Line and more than 250,000 commuters during evening rush hour.

Can you detect a pattern here?

Praising our MRT jinxes it.

Want more evidence? How about something more recent?

In March, Transport Minister (though not for long) Ong Ye Kung was at the ground-breaking for the new integrated train testing centre in Tuas.

The centre will be able to test different trains and rail systems at the same time without disrupting regular passenger services.

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Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, March 17, 2021

In his speech, he acknowledged: “No matter how hard we work and try, the occasional disruption in any engineering system will unfortunately be quite inevitable.”

But he could not resist working in this tiny brag: “Today, the Mean Kilometres Between Failure, or MKBF, of our MRT network is over 1 million train-km. This is a great encouragement and source of pride for the team, and we will do what we can to maintain it."

Even this sliver of self-congratulation was enough to rile the rail gods as in less than two weeks, commuters suffered train service disruptions on two consecutive days.

The train service disruptions today and yesterday happened on different lines and for different reasons, says LTA.

Posted by CNA on Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Land Transport Authority called it “very unfortunate and frustrating”. I call it karma.

MKBF should stand for MRT Keeps Breaking - Fuck!

But what is more troubling is that like a virus, the curse appears to have mutated into new deadlier strains to spread beyond the MRT.

Let me take you back February last year at the beginning of the pandemic.

Singapore was averaging fewer than 10 new coronavirus cases a day. We thought we were doing so well.

A bunch of Harvard University researchers described Singapore as “a gold standard of near-perfect detection”.

But in two months, we were averaging up to 1,000 new cases a day, mostly migrant workers. We were no longer doing well.

One news headline read: “From ‘gold standard’ to ‘cautionary tale’.” Those damn Harvard nerds jinxed us.

Fortunately, the numbers have come down since then with zero new cases in the community on most days over the last few months. We didn’t even cancel Chinese New Year.

Then last week, it happened again.

We were doing so well that you declared “Singapore is now the world’s best place to be during Covid” as we overtook New Zealand in your latest Covid Resilience Ranking.

Along with the recent hoopla over another attempt at the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble, we were just tempting fate.

You and I know what happened next.

Recovered migrant workers at a dormitory tested positive for Covid-19. A cluster emerged at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

On Saturday, we had our first Covid-19 death since March. Those days of zero new community cases are over.

Our Prime Minister even warned of another circuit breaker.

From “world’s best place to be during Covid“ back to square one.

See what you did?

You jinxed us like those Harvard nerds did last year.

I guess we won’t be topping your damn Covid Resilience Ranking this month.

Thanks a lot, Bloomberg.

- Published In The New Paper, 3 May 2021