The Covid-19 virus otherwise known as the 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease has as of the 12th of February 2020, killed more than 1,000 people, infected over more than 42,000, and reached some 25 countries, according to the World Health Organisation. The virus is thought to have originated from bats, and was transmitted to human beings via intermediary contact through other animals such as snakes or pangolins.

3,700 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise liner are currently still in quarantine on board the ship as it anchors off Japan’s coast. As of 12 February 2020, 174 people on board the cruise, have tested positive for the virus. Singapore so far has 50 confirmed cases, with the most recent 3 cases having no contact with China.

The news of the virus sparked off a wave of panic in many Singaporeans and residents. While the status was still at DORSCON Yellow, they had taken to swiping surgical masks, sanitisers, alcohol swabs off the shelves. Many who truly needed these medical supplies such as diabetic patients who needed alcohol swabs for their insulin injections, were turned away as across Singapore, medical supplies were stretched thin.

Things became even more flabbergastingly irrational when at the announcement that the status of Singapore was now at DORSCON Orange, a frenzy of panic buying was ignited, with consumers clearing full shelves of rice, noodles, toilet paper, and groceries at the supermarkets. The ugly side of Singapore soon reared its head, as people tired of the long queues, left their unbought baskets and carts in the aisles for already taxed out supermarket staff to clear. This meant that any fresh produce that was left in the baskets or carts, could not be kept and had to be thrown away.

The incident of Covid-19 has lessons to teach us today.   According to the Catholic Social Teaching of Solidarity, we are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers whoever they may be. Loving our neighbour has global dimensions and as it is with our Gospel mandate, we are called to be peacemakers in a world of conflict and violence. To love someone is to desire that person’s good and to take effective steps to secure it.  Besides the good of the individual, there is the good that is linked to living in society: the common good.

It is the good of “all of us”, made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society.  … To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity. (Pope Benedict XVI, Charity in Truth [Caritas in Veritate. . . ], no. 7)

While St. John Paul II has this to say of solidarity: [it] “is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On  the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to  the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual,  because we are all really responsible for all.”
(St. John Paul II, On Social Concern [Sollicitudo rei Socialis. . . ], no. 38)

So with Covid-19, what can we do to work towards true solidarity and the good of all?

It would be foolish, to run headlong into the epi-centre of the virus, and say infect me not so-and-so. It is not martyrdom, as viruses do not really discriminate between lives. However, what we can do is to amplify our efforts at prudence and charity. Perhaps, there may be someone else who needs that bag of rice more than we do. There is no reason to hoard. Or, we could, if we see baskets and carts lying helter-skelter to help put back the non-perishable items. For the perishable items, we do not know how long they have been lying out of their chillers, so it is better to exercise prudence rather than good intentions in this case.

Another way we could exercise the virtue of solidarity is by remaining calm and following the directives set forth by the Archdiocese.

  • Be socially responsible, stay at home if you are sick. Any person who is unwell or exhibit symptoms of flu is exempted from attending Mass where crowds are present. They should not attend any church activities.
  • Holy Communion is to be received only on the hand till further notice. Holy Communion from the Chalice is to be suspended till further notice.
  • Avoid holding of hands during Mass. It is also to be noted that the holding of hands during the Lord’s Prayer during Mass is not consistent with Liturgical laws.
  • Practise good hand hygiene – wash hands with soap and water frequently, or use alcohol hand sanitisers.
  • Wear a surgical mask if sick, and see a doctor promptly.
  • Monitor your health and temperature.
  • Cover your mouth with tissue when you cough or sneeze, and dispose of these used tissues properly. Do not leave them in the church pews for someone to pick them up for you.
  • Comply with Quarantine and Leaves-of-Absence orders. Stay in the designated areas, until the quarantine period is over.
  • Observe good personal hygiene and sanitary practices at all times.
  • Keep yourself updated on the changing disease situation.
  • Comply with instructions given by the Ministry of Hospitality regarding seating, and movements, and temperature screenings in church.

More updates can be found:

According to St. John Paul II,
“It is precisely in this sense that Cain’s  answer to the Lord’s question: “Where is Abel your brother?” can be  interpreted: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).  Yes, every man is his “brother’s keeper”, because God entrusts us to one another.” (St. John Paul II, The Gospel of Life [Evangelium Vitae. . . ], no. 19)


World health Organisation
Caritas in Veritate
Sollicitudo rei Socialis
Evangelium Vitae

By Brian Bartholomew Tan