Unite as nation before tragedy hits

In the face of tragedy, we unite as one nation, as we have done to mourn Singaporeans killed in the Sabah earthquake ("Singapore mourns young lives lost"; Tuesday).

We should also unite before any tragedy happens. Sadly, this does not seem to be the case for the Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers) crisis in South Korea.

Some people still choose to go there, taking the great risk of infecting Singapore on their return. I salute those who cancel their trips and lose the money they have paid.

Those who choose to go to South Korea during this time should not forget how the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) virus was imported into Singapore from Hong Kong.

A few years ago, during the H1N1 pandemic in Australia, Singapore Airlines (SIA) was kind enough to give my wife and me a full refund when we cancelled our return flights to Sydney. Therefore, I am surprised that this time round, the airline has refused a full refund to Madam Mok Juang Wei's daughter for cancelling her trip to South Korea ("Penalised for trying to avoid Mers-hit country"; yesterday).

Passengers who cancel their trips out of concern for their own health, and out of responsibility in not wanting to bring the virus into Singapore, should not be faulted or penalised.

Could the authorities step in to help airlines and tour agencies put the nation's interests ahead of commercial ones? Perhaps subsidies could be granted to companies which provide refunds to customers who wish to cancel their trips to South Korea. The same could be instituted for travel insurance firms.

The Education Ministry has made the right decision to cancel all school trips to South Korea ("School trips cancelled"; Sunday). Hong Kong has issued a travel advisory against non-essential travel to South Korea ("HK issues 'red alert' against travel to South Korea"; yesterday).

All travellers should think hard about going to South Korea at this time. Let us not have history repeat itself.

This article was first published on June 11, 2015.
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