S M Ong: What’s scarier, Covid or clown?
It's that time of the year again.
I feel sorry for Primary 6 kids and their parents. How stressful it must be for them right now.
The Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) starts on Thursday.
Amid a spike in the number of Covid-19 cases, Primary 6 pupils are on a study break until Wednesday. Primary 1 to 5 pupils will start full home-based learning from today until Oct 7 after the end of the PSLE.
More children are getting infected with Covid-19.
Yesterday, 97 of the 1,934 new cases reported were under 12 with 88 children in hospital.
So far, none of the Covid-19 vaccines available in Singapore have been approved for use in children under 12.
But despite all that, you know what could scare parents more than the coronavirus?
And Singapore tested positive for them last week.
The bad news is there is no vaccine against them either - for children and adults.
Pfizer and Big Pharma are sleeping on the job.
But then who could've predicted we would have an outbreak of a Stephen King movie?
Last Monday, Singaporeans woke up to the bizarre reports of clowns terrorising children outside their schools.
It turned out to be maybe just one clown promoting an education company called Speech Academy Asia .
What the company had hoped to be more like Ronald McDonald turned out to be more like It, prompting multiple police reports and Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin to post on Facebook last Monday: "Whoever is doing what I assume to be some viral marketing nonsense, stop it!"
Or at least wait a month until Halloween if you want to frighten children with your budget Pennywise cosplay.
No, it isn't bliss, and no, we don't approve. And yes, it is kind of queer. Sondheim aside, not everyone is down to clown around town.
The story was even picked up by overseas media outlets such as The Washington Post, South China Morning Post and Vice.
The Sun had this headline: "Parents terrified after creepy 'killer clowns' spotted lurking outside school and asking kids to 'follow them'."
Fact check: Unlike the coronavirus, the supposed "killer clowns" didn't actually kill anybody, although safe distancing from clowns is still advised, preferably a lot more than 1m.
Speech Academy Asia has since apologised, posting on Facebook: "We would like to clarify that; although indeed, the promoter is an employee of Speech Academy Asia, our team does not offer any form of monetary rewards for children to follow them.
"Additionally, our promoters strictly do not take any children out of the vicinity.
"We truly understand your concern for the safety of your children; hence we will be putting an immediate stop to our roadshows."
And thus, the clownovirus cluster was quickly closed to the relief of all.
Taking the PSLE in the middle of a pandemic is harrowing enough without having to fend off circus acts too.
Will the pandemic ever end?
Well, maybe next year.