In 1874, cholera found its way to Singapore through trade and immigration and in the absence of proper sewage systems and clean water supply, it is no laughing matter that 357 people literally shit themselves to death. Bouts of free-flowing diarrhea were accompanied by massive dehydration, loss of electrolytes and rapid death through hypovolemic shock. For the sake of the locals (and undoubtedly to save their own asses), the government quickly designated St. John’s Island as a quarantine station and reduced the spread of cholera on the mainland. With increasing immigration in the years to follow, St. John’s was further super-sized to become the largest and most successful quarantine facility in the world!
When prevailing SMM threatened to thwart our class’s field trip and deprive students of a rich and immersive experience to reinforce learning, Grace Chong simply laughed (Junhong not so much) and got to work. Following the lecture on how cholera shaped Singapore’s history, students from GEC1011 headed off in small groups to explore St. John’s Island – with this field guide in hand(phones). The lessons from Singapore’s history on fighting pandemics shall not be lost, certainly not to coronavirus!