“No Big Deal”

A positive test for COVID, to many people, is a trifling matter, especially among the young. After all, it is CNY. Having fun takes precedence. And, it’s fashionable to play it cool

By Ray Zhang

Someone I know shared via a Line post that he tested positive for COVID. By now, as it is often said, we would know someone who has contracted the virus, if not us ourself. The guy did not seem unsettled when asked if he was okay. It was as if he knew this day would come. One comment to his Timeline, to me, spoke for many people not bothered by the rising number of the infected. It read: “No big deal”. Unimportant? Of no or little consequence? Or, worse, no problem? But there were. The COVID-stricken chap did feel unwell although he said that the “symptoms are mild”—the standard description to an infection still known to kill. And he would not describe further. I am not sure what that Line commentator/friend meant by his 没什么大不了 (mei shen me da bu liao—well, no big deal!) reaction to the announcement. Was it to console the sick fellow? Or to bring cheer? Or was it an attitude sprung from ignorance? It was, to me, flippant.

Prior to this post, the guy shared on other social media, photos of a home dinner party that he attended three days before the test cartridge for his ART revealed the dreaded two red lines. And there was a video too. It showed a group of six guys attired in the SG uniform of T-shirt and shorts (now considered festive), getting ready to lohei (捞起). And then someone counted down, and all of them tossed with considerable gusto, as if to release pent-up energy (or frustration?). Hunched and huddled over the auspiciously-dressed yusheng (鱼生), they hollered “huat ah (发啊)!” into the space above the fancy salad, circular-framed by the delighted faces of the diners. None wore a mask. As they shouted, louder and louder, it was not hard to imagine, even if just one of them was positive and asymptomatic, the quantity of virus sent out into the air, but also onto the food. The plate of yusheng a petri dish. The ill fellow said later that he thinks it is possible that he “got it” from someone at that party who tested positive the day after the lively dinner.

And then someone counted down, and all of them tossed with considerable gusto, as if to release pent-up energy (or frustration?). Hunched and huddled over the dressed yusheng, they hollered “huat ah!” into the space above the fancy salad, circular-framed by the delighted faces of the diners. As they shouted, louder and louder, it was not hard to imagine, even if just one of them was positive and asymptomatic, the quantity of virus sent out into the air, but also onto the food

It is hard to say to a COVID-positive person that he could have remained negative if he had been less eager to party with people from at least five different households. Or, that they should have not engaged in risky behaviours such as being so close to one another and practically shouting into each other‘s face. Even if yusheng is conceived to be enjoyed by a group, rowdily! Were they too deep into the enjoyment to be aware of the consequence of their carelessness? Are there ever occasions during a still-raging pandemic that could allow us to disregard the protocols in place to minimise the spread of a virulent virus? I was also surprised that in viewing the video prior to posting it, the chap did not see, even in hindsight, those questionable actions when he and his pals enthusiastically and vigorously made a mess of the plastic platter of yusheng. Showing themselves having immense fun is necessary to give the eff-off to a pandemic that has spoilt the social lives of so many. Never mind if group gathering over grub has repeatedly shown in research and data to be the antecedent event to COVID infection, and spread. We don’t think about clusters anymore, do we?

For many people, from those on basketball courts to those lohei-ing away at home, health is no longer a priority, having fun is. After all, we are constantly reminded that nowadays “the symptoms are mild” and “sooner or later, you’re going to get it”. So why not meet the virus head on? Immunity to the virus is not the same for everyone, even when vaccinated. Yet we readily welcome it? I don’t even want to get the flu! Every single time I am out, usually alone, to do what I have to do, I see countless individuals unmasked, half-masked, not staying a metre apart from others, totally disregarding the social requirements and obligations to keep the COVID infection number low. There is an overall tidak-apa attitude disguised as “COVID fatigue”. Hold a cup of bubble milk tea—even if it’s empty—and it is a valid reason for you to be maskless, from MRT station to home more than two kilometers away. When it comes to your turn to order food at a hawker stall, don’t bother that the person in front of you has not received his and moved away—since you are hungry, inch closer. Never mind that the coronavirus loves you more when you care not about the measures that could keep Omicron and kin at bay. To hell with the reminder that it is for ourselves that we should strive to be better informed. Yusheng brought one group together, and as they eagerly lohei-ed, they ardently tossed among themselves an infectious agent. While they wished for 年年有余, abundance year after year, were they thinking of their two-year-old foe, COVID?

Illustration: Just So

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