Saturday, April 18, 2020

Positive cases detected through testing of patients at clinics

There was a report that several patients visiting clinics were tested at random for covid-19 and a certain number was found to be positive. This suggested that the community spread was more widespread than thought previously.

I was not surprised by this finding. It would be more helpful if the ministry of health disclosed the number that were tested and the number that were found to be positive and the proportion that were asymptomatic.

This is actually good news for the people in Singapore and probably bad news for the ministerial task force.

Why do I say so? It might expose their incompetence!

Enforcing the wearing of mask

I saw a few videos, shared through social media, about the difficulties faced by the enforcement officers in getting people to wear the mask. The officers were pleading with the public, often in a loud voice, to observe the regulations.

Who is to blame for these incidents?

a) The public who does not comply with the new regulations?
b) The enforcement officers who are adopting the enforcement in a rigid manner?

Here are my views.

Excellent customer service from Xiaomi

I wish to commend Xiaomi for their excellent customer service.

My smart band 3 failed within the 1 year warranty period. I searched online for information on how to claim on the warranty.

I found a website that allowed me to send a message to the customer service location. The online form required me to fill up my name, email, telephone and the detail of my request.

I was able to submit the online form easily. It took me just one minute.

Analyze the data obtained from the covid tests

The ministerial task force is probably carrying out large scale testings of the foreign workers living in dormitories. This is costing a huge sum of money. The purpose is to identify who are found to be infected for the virus and to put them in quarantine.

The task force should not miss the opportunity to analyze the results and learn valuable findings about the corona virus.

What other information are useful?

Friday, April 17, 2020

Join the international band wagon

Americans are scared of the coronavirus. It has already killed 105 per million of the population. It is so scary that the entire country has been logged down. I understand their concern. If we have 105 per million deaths in Singapore, I would also be scared.

Singaporeans are also terribly scared of the coronavirus. We are scared because Americans are scared, Europeans are scared and nearly everybody else is scared.

The coronavirus has killed 2 per million people in Singapore, but to the Singaporeans and the ministers in the task force, it does not make any difference. They cannot tell the difference between 105 and 2 deaths per million.

According to these people, every life is important. All deaths should be avoided.

These people think that the coronavirus is the only way to die.

They do not realize that there are another 3,498 people per million people who found other ways to die. These other deaths are not important, because our ministerial task force did not elevate them to the limelight.

I use a death rate of 3.5 per thousand for Singapore. This is provided by official statistics. There is another statistics that reported a death rate is 5 per thousand. It make no difference to my reasoning about our nonsensical approach.

So, Singapore also go into a lockdown, except that our ministers call it the circuit breaker and some people mistakenly call it the short circuit. Yeah, their thinking is short circuited.

Whenever I explained these statistics, I will get some over-reacted scare mongers scold me with all kinds of illogical arguments and personal statements.

One of them asked how I would feel if a foreign worker passed the virus to my maid who pass it to my family. I don't know how to reply to this kind of statement, so I just ignored it.

With the latest increase in new cases (which reflects the large increase in testing of the workers in the dormitory), many people expect more severe restrictions to follow. They expect a total lockdown.

I don't know what is a total lockdown, compared to what we already have now. Some body said - cannot go out and buy food. Better to stock up on food now. Another round of panic?

I also expect more severe restrictions, not because they are necessary, but because I expect the ministerial task force to over-react also. They also can't tell the difference between 105 deaths and 2 deaths per million, reflecting the poor quality of their leadership.

I don't know if the ministers realize that the increase is new cases is largely due to increased testing of the workers in the dormitory, rather than an actual increase in the transmission of the disease. If they did, why not state it in their daily news to the people?

Perhaps they think that it is safer to join the international band wagon, even though common sense dictate that our level of risk is very much lower.

Contact tracing using an app

I downloaded the TraceTogether developed by GovTech. I used it for a day. I gave up and deleted the app.

I do not like the approach. It consumed too much battery by running Bluetooth to scan for nearby mobile phones. It did not provide any feedback to me on whether there were any data that were captured.

I find the Safe Paths app that is being developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to have most promise.

It is described here

Compulsory to wear a mask

I went out on 16 April for 90 minutes walk wearing a mask. It was uncomfortable. I found it difficult to breath.

My friend said that the latest regulation allows a person to go out without a mask for brisk walking exercise.

I was aware of the latest change. Why did I wear the mask?

Here is the sequence of events:

728 new cases on 16 April 2020

Wow! 728 new cases for April 16. It does not suggest that the virus is spreading rapidly. It is the result of comprehensive testing of the workers in the dormitories. The virus has already spread earlier and is now discovered by the testing.

In America, 20% of those tested are found to be positive for the virus.

In Singapore, the infected cases represent 6% of those tested (4427 out of 72680, according to WHO statistics).

If we carry out comprehensive testing of the general population, I expect to find that 6% would also have been infected, but many of these cases were not identified because the infections were mild.

Will MOH release the statistics of how many people were tested for the virus, how many were found positive and how many had symptoms? This information is important to understand what is really happening.

The absence of this information will will cause panic among the general population and lead to stronger reaction, such as more drastic lockdown measures. Is it really necessary?

So far, the death rate for the coronavirus is 2 per million of population. It is extremely low in Singapore, compared to 86 in America and over 100 in some European countries.

In contrast, the death rate in Singapore from all causes is 3,500 per million. We should not over-react when 2 die from coronavirus. There are another 3,498 people who die from other causes.

Of course, people are scared that the virus can spread more widely in the general population. They imagine that it could increase by 100 or 1,000 folds. That fear is exaggerated and unfounded.

Even if there are more people in the general population that gets infected, most of the cases are likely to be mild.

We only need to worry if there are more people that need to be placed in intensive care and the death rate increase to 20 per million, i.e. 10 times of the current rate.

I am not suggesting that we do nothing until it reaches 20. We do what is necessary if the number does increase rapidly from the current 2 per million, but we should not plan on the basis that it will become 20 or 200. Not yet.

I still call on the people, and more especially, the ministerial task force, to look at the figures in the perspective that I have suggested, and to take rational decisions on what needs to be done.

Tan Kin Lian

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Death rate from covid-19 is low in Singapore

Here are the death rates from covid-19 per million of population

World: 17.3
Spain 402
Italy 358
France 263
UK 190
Sweden 119
USA 86
Iran 57
Germany 45
Canada 27
Turkey 18
Israel 15
South Korea 4
Malaysia 3
Singapore 2
Indonesia 2
Australia 2
China 2

The death rate is low in hot climate (Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Indonesia) and countries with better control (China, South Korea).

Although the cases and deaths have increased in Singapore during the past week, the death rate is low relative to other countries.

Tan Kin Lian

Carry out a sample test of the general population

The increase in infected cases under covid-19 is alarming in recent days. We are seeing the new cases numbering several hundreds each day, compared to an average of 50 cases previously.

The figures may seem alarming, and may suggest that the virus is spreading rapidly.

However, there is another angle that may be overlooked.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. What should be done about the worker dormitories?
2. Should we continue to use foreign workers?

Vote in

WOTC - Close down workplaces

Wisdom of the Crowd: 69% of the respondents support the move to close down workplaces in Singapore during the coronavirus pandemic.

WOTC - Control food prices

Wisdom of the Crowd: 47% of the respondents prefer the government to set controlled prices for essential items to control food prices during a pandemic. 31% prefer the government to issue coupons to families to buy a fixed quantity at fixed prices.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Which is the biggest blunder by the ministerial task force on covid-19?
2. Is it appropriate to make wearing of face mask in public mandatory?
Vote in

WOTC - Spanish Flu

Wisdom of the Crowd: 34% of the respondents said that the Spanish flu received its name because it caused most deaths in Spain. The other respondents cited other reasons.

WOTC - America's response to Covid-19

Wisdom of the Crowd: 44% of the respondents said that America failed to act early to deal with the corona virus.

Good judgment by Goh Meng Seng

In early January, Goh Meng Seng was asking people in Singapore to wear mask. He said that this measure was important to stop the spread of the virus. He uploaded his photo with a face mask and used it actively in his social medias.

I disagreed with Meng Seng at that time. I held the view that it was not necessary to wear a mask as the climate in Singapore was warm, unlike China or South Korea, and the spread of infection was low here. However, I did not want to contradict Meng Seng on this issue publicly. I did not support his stand at that time.

Some of his detractors said, on social media, that Meng Seng was politicizing the issue. I know Meng Seng well. He was sincere in his beliefs and views generally. In this instance, he must have sincerely felt that it was advisable for people to wear a mask when they are out in public. He was not using the opportunity to gain any political advantage.

As matters turn out, Meng Seng's judgment was right. As the spread of infection increased, it became advisable and necessary for the general public to wear a mask. It was clear that he had better judgment than the ministers in the ministerial task force.

My own view on this matter changed about two weeks ago, when the ministerial task force implemented compulsory social distancing. Using common sense, I concluded that time had come to use a face mask. It does not make sense to have social distancing in food outlets and malls, and yet allow people to be packed in crowded buses and trains together any protection. The journey that usually last more than half an hour.

So I started to wear a face mask in a crowded bus or train or other crowded place.

Finally, and perhaps somewhat late, the ministerial task force decided to make it compulsory for everyone to wear a mask when they are out of their house. As usual, that sudden and hasty decision was accompanied with threats of heavy fines for non-observance.

I hope that the ministers realize that many people have only one mask, or none at all, and that the mask has to be washed and dried after each use. It is also uncomfortable to wear in the mask in our hot climate, especially if they have to spend more than an hour to walk to the supermarket or market and to stand in the queue before being admitted.

Nevertheless, I am sure that the people will find a way to get out of this problem, even if the ministers overlooked it.

I hope that the ministerial task force will listen to practical people on the ground, like Goh Meng Seng and others, in making their decisions to deal with a difficult and changing problem. The people in the ministers' inner circle are in groupthink and may not have to courage to think outside of the box.

Tan Kin Lian

Improve the online process for applying for a passport

The online process to apply for a passport is actually quite easy. The applicant only needs to confirm the particulars (which were already available in the ICA records) and to upload a photo (according to the required specs). It should take just five minutes, for a person who is familiar with the process.

But it took me several hours on three occasions. The first two were aborted attempts.

What were the problems that I encountered?

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

A large investment in Tesla

I hold 500 shares in Tesla at an average cost of USD 605. At its worst point, when Tesla was at $360 on 18 March, I suffered a paper loss of S$170,000. I held on to the shares, as I was confident about the future for Tesla.

The share price recovered during the past four weeks. Last night, it closed at $650. From a paper loss, I now see a paper profit of S$32,000. Wow! It is a turnaround of S$200,000!

Tesla is my largest investment. It is an exception - in terms of the amount that I invest in any one share. I usually prefer to spread my investment in many shares - under the principle of diversification.

I am quite familiar with this company, and have watched many videos from analysts and the general public tracing the prospects for this leading manufacturer of electric cars.

Increase in covid-19 cases in Singapore

There is a large increase in covid-19 cases in Singapore during the past week. The latest figure was 386 cases for 13 April 2020. Before the recent upsurge, the average daily cases was around 50.

Most of the new cases were from foreign workers living in dormitories. One third of these cases could not be traced - giving alarm that it could indicate the extent of the community spread.

I wish to give my views on these issues.

Helping people who suffer a loss of income

I wish to explain the merits and challenges of various ways to help people who suffer a loss of income during an economic downturn.

WOTC - Should the govt bail out Singapore Airlines?

Wisdom of the Crowd: 57% of the respondents said that Singapore Airlines should be assisted by the government. 43% said that taxpayer's money should not be used to assist this company.

WOTC - Helping people who suffer a loss of income

The respondents voted for the following choice to help people who suffer a loss of income - introduce an unemployment insurance (37%), allow them to take a soft loan (28%), give them money to meet essential expenses (28%).

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. Will you use Zoom for teleconferencing?
2. Which teleconferencing platform do you prefer?

Vote in

Sunday, April 12, 2020

WOTC - Problem faced by Singapore Airlines

Wisdom of the Crowd: 69% of the respondents said that the main cause of the problem faced by Singapore Airlines is the covid-19 pandemic and the suspension of international flights. the other respondents blamed their fuel hedging practice which caused a large part of the loss.

WOTC - Fuel hedging by airline

Wisdom of the Crowd: 47% of the participants said that an airline should hedge its fuel cost up to two years ahead. 50% said that it should hedge its fuel cost up to six months ahead.

Wisdom of the Crowd - New Issues

1. How do you rate the performance of the ministerial task force on covid-19?
2. If a general election is called by June, who will you vote for?
Vote in

Abuse of Temporary Relief Fund

The government implemented the Temporary Relief Fund to give a payment of $500 to lower to middle income citizens and permanent residents who face financial difficulty due to income loss caused by the covid-19 crisis. Details here

Two problems arose from this scheme:

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