Udan Fernando to talk at the Center for South Asian Studies, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa on March 28, 2022

Trace-Together; Space-Apart?

Observations on Civic Behaviour in Singapore during the Pandemic

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In the initial months of the pandemic, Singapore emerged as a poster boy for its efficacy in managing the spread of the virus. However, very soon this situation reversed when the backbone of the country’s crucial construction industry, the migrant workers, mainly originating from South Asia, were infected with the virus in their thousands on a daily basis due to the congested dormitories they were living. The construction industry was paralyzed by this. In March 2020, the Singaporean Government introduced an app called ‘TraceTogether’ The app enabled quick identification of persons who may have come into close contact with anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19 and their locations. This was world’s first main COVID-19 tracking app. Despite many concerns over privacy, the app was slowly adopted by the population of Singapore, eventually reaching a 92% adoption rate in May 2021. The app is now mandatory for people to access spaces such as markets, restaurants and offices. In addition to general restrictions of gatherings in public spaces and social distancing measures, the ‘TraceTogether’ introduced a particular regime that triggered new dynamics on the interplay between public spaces and civic behavior. The proposed presentation discusses, based on some photo-documentation in a popular market in Little India, a particular aspect of civil behavior in relation to the requirement of a ‘sticker’ to be pasted when entering a public space and return it when exiting. The presentation strives to position the civic behaviors during the pandemic period in the context of a myriad of significant transformations taking place in the domain of democracy in Singapore.  

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