Singapore Leader’s Wife Rebuts Critics on City’s Virus Spike

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Ho Ching, head of Singapore’s state-owned investment company and wife of the country’s prime minister, blasted criticism on the city-state’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, saying it wasn’t alone in misreading the pandemic’s spread among patients who don’t display symptoms.

“We all underestimated the asymptomatic transmission — not just SG, but the world over,” Ho said in a Facebook post late Friday night, using the abbreviation for Singapore. She said she’s frustrated by “I told you so” comments, adding that “hindsight is always beautiful and perfect.”

While she didn’t say who the cryptic rebuttal was directed at in thepost, a report that went live on Friday said Hoadmitted that the government made a mistake in bringing Singaporeans home when the number of infections surged globally.

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“Nope! Don’t put words in my mouth, young man!” Ho said in her Facebook post. She added that the unnamed critic shouldn’t “waste time being a back-seat driver” and should stop acting like a “smart alec, by blaming this or that person.”

The number of cases in Singapore reached close to the 6,000 mark as authorities detected more infections among migrant workers living in close quarters. A record 942 new coronavirus infections were reported on Saturday.

Before the latest increase in cases, the return of Singapore students and workers overseas also contributed to a rise in infections earlier. “It’s absolutely the right thing to do, to call our people home,” she said.

Singapore, which was seen as a success model in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, has now been hit by a setback after virus cases rose at dormitories for foreign workers. These patients now make up about nine in 10 of new cases reported in the past week.

In another Facebook post Saturday, Ho called out an unidentified “young lady” who had asked for infected migrant workers to be deported, and defended the city-state’s move to take care of them. “Those migrant workers caught the bug from someone -- that someone could have been us, individually or collectively,” she said. “Just don’t let fear cloud our humanity.”

The significant numbers came from extensive testing of the workers, who are predominantly from South Asian nations. “But we better test and know, rather than to pretend it’s zero,” she said, adding that the country should “keep calm, and curry on!”

Ho is the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who has directly addressed the nation on a number of occasions to calm fears amid the outbreak. The nation imposed its version of a lockdown, called a “circuit breaker,” more than a week ago.

Ho is also the chief executive officer ofTemasek Holdings Pte, which manages a S$313 billion ($220 billion) portfolio as of March 2019. The state investor is the biggest stakeholder in half of the country’s 10 biggest companies by market value, including flag carrierSingapore Airlines Ltd., which was hard hit by the pandemic. Singapore’s key stock index has lost almost a fifth of its value since the start of the year.

“You and me -- we can be the silent carriers, spreading to others silently without us even knowing,” she said. “We feel totally well -- we can sing at the top of our voice, or jive to june bug music without feeling breathless. But that doesn’t mean we are not carrying the bug silently.”

— With assistance by Chanyaporn Chanjaroen

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