Frontline and Fault Lines 

 

February 2020. 

 

It is 12a.m.

 

The sign reads:  Mask Distribution, this way.

 

The tables and chairs have been arranged, and the queue lines have been set out. There will be a lot of people tomorrow.

 

Please only wear masks if you are feeling unwell, Minister Chan Chun Sing said on TV. 

 

“Why are you only giving us 4 masks? How is that enough?”

“My family has 5 people, so you give me 4 masks means you want one of them to die is it?” 

 

“Can you guarantee that I wear this mask won’t get virus?” Sorry, sir –

 

//

 

March 2020. 

It is 2p.m.

 

The sign reads: Hand Sanitiser Distribution, this way.

 

“I have been waiting here since 9a.m. leh!” The distribution starts at 3p.m. 

“Sorry, everything in English… I cannot read.” 

 

Have you travelled overseas in the past 14 days? 

“Eh eh eh this person travelled overseas within the past 14 days leh! How? Don’t stand so near!

What if we get the virus ah?” 

 

Do you have any flu symptoms?

Let me take your temperature. “Is my temperature OK? I am healthy right? What temperature is fever ah?” 

 

“This hand sanitiser good or not, how to use?”

Uncle, you still must wash your hands regularly, don’t touch your face… tell your friends also to come and collect the hand sanitiser ok! “Ok, ok, I just kidding only. You all must take care ah!”

 

//

 

April 2020. 

Reusable Masks Distribution, this way. 

Temporary Relief Fund Applications? That way. Singaporeans and PRs only. 

 

The yellow tape on the floor marks the distance between

two tile squares, 

 

safe |                                                                  | distancing – 

“Excuse me, this auntie is standing too near me, eh can you tell her to stand further away! 

Safe distancing leh!” 

 

“Why the queue so long ah?”

“Aiya, don’t complain so much, stay at home also too many people, no space, nothing to do. We also don’t talk to each other much. Here got aircon, got chairs, can talk to your friend (but got social distance la).”

 

To apply for the fund, you need to show us that your income is affected by COVID-19 –

“I don’t have… my boss just called me and said don’t need to come anymore.”

Payslip? CPF Contributions Statement? “Don’t have… they pay me cash everyday, better.”

 

Can ask your boss to send you an official email or message? Then you email to us, the person processing your application at the counter later will help you to print it out.  

“Huh? I don’t have wifi now, no email also. How ah still can anot? Can you help me?”

 

Sorry, the waiting time will be at least an hour. Do you mind queuing later, or come back tomorrow? “No worry, I got time. I also don’t need to go to work anymore.” 

 

//

 

Sir, mdm, it is your turn now.

“Thank you ah, thank you very much.”

Cassandra worked at the frontlines of the public service during the initial months of COVID-19, where conversations filled up the spaces between people.  She believes that conversations are a powerful prism through which we navigate the seen and unseen of the local landscape: stories lived-in and shared, a vernacular vocabulary that gives meaning to identities and spaces, fault lines yet to be crossed out/realigned to new orders. She hopes that we can see a little more clearly the vastly different Singapore’s that we all live in, the stories that we tell ourselves; because the times we live in are only extraordinary insofar as we allow it to redefine the paradigms of society. Presently, Cassandra journals her perspective of Singapore on @casstronomie visually through film photography, accompanied by the occasional writing experiment.

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