Did White House try to claim credit for Singapore's success in handling Covid-19?

PHOTO: YouTube screengrab / Fox News

United States President Donald Trump's insistence on calling the coronavirus a “Chinese virus” hasn’t exactly won him fans in the Asian-American community. It certainly hasn’t done anything to stem the outbreak in the country too as the US now leads the world in confirmed Covid-19 cases — more than China, the epicentre of the pandemic. 

As the virus wreaks havoc across the nation, the White House has been paying close attention to Singapore, the country that has won praises left and right for its exemplary handling of the outbreak

The thing is, they might have gotten a few details wrong about Singapore. Which wouldn’t be the first time, too. 

Yesterday (March 27), a Redditor by the handle of u/CompetitivePumpkin3 shared a clip from a Fox News town hall interview with Trump and his coronavirus task force. Singapore was brought up by Fox News' Chief Anchor Bill Hemmer, leading to the following answer by Dr Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator

It’s an odd response to the question, with the Redditor taking it as Dr Birx had declared that Singapore was able to successfully dampen down virus infections thanks to President Trump’s guidelines. 

You can judge it for yourself in the clip below, with the segment on Singapore coming in at the 24-minute mark. 

Here’s the official transcript of that portion:

Bill Hemmer: The way it was described to me — and correct the medical positioning of this question — but the virus is trying to figure out a way to survive.  And that’s where it moves around and it mutates. 

Now, in Singapore, there was a headline earlier today suggesting a possible second wave in that island nation. How do you — how do you gauge that at this point?

Dr Deborah Birx: Well, remember, in Singapore, they took the President’s guidelines and they executed them very early because they could see China next door. And so, they saw those and they implemented those guidelines. So, very few people became infected in Singapore.

Because so few people have been infected, you don’t have what they called “herd immunity.”

Now, did the good doctor actually state that Singapore followed the guidelines set by President Trump or was she just saying that Singapore followed its own president’s guidelines? Either way, they’re both questionable proclamations. 

If given the benefit of the doubt, it could simply mean that Dr Birx mistook President Halimah Yacob for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the country’s leader who is certainly involved in setting the directions to combat the Covid-19 outbreak in Singapore. 

On the other hand, it could be argued that Dr Birx did try to attribute Singapore’s relative success in containing the outbreak to President Trump’s guidelines, which were only issued on March 16. Also, note how her hand gestures towards him when she says “the president” and how the official transcript capitalises “President” when Trump is being referred to. 

PHOTO: YouTube screengrab

Whatever the truth is, it really doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things, especially when the important thing to know is that Singapore is doing a way better job at handling the outbreak than the US right now.

They can claim all the credit they want to if it makes them feel better — we’ll just worry about social distancing, buying a rational amount of groceries, and how to keep ourselves entertained indoors with faster internet.