‘Faster go and vaccinate’: Phua Chu Kang’s Covid-19 video splits opinion in Singapore, makes headlines abroad

Gurmit Singh, playing Phua Chu Kang, and Irene Ang, playing his wife Rosie, in the public service video on Covid-19 vaccination entitled Get Your Shot, Steady Pom Pi Pi. — Screen capture via YouTube/Govsg
Gurmit Singh, playing Phua Chu Kang, and Irene Ang, playing his wife Rosie, in the public service video on Covid-19 vaccination entitled Get Your Shot, Steady Pom Pi Pi. — Screen capture via YouTube/Govsg

SINGAPORE, May 5 — Sporting his trademark yellow wellington boots, gold necklace and curly locks, Singapore’s much-loved contractor Phua Chu Kang has again been roped in to help the country fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

This time, the unlikely public health ambassador’s latest song in support of the vaccination campaign has been making waves overseas despite his heavy use of Singlish phrases, earning him mentions on news outlets in Australia and the United Kingdom.

In a YouTube music video on the Government’s channel that has garnered nearly 35,000 views as of Tuesday evening after its release on Sunday, Phua — played by comedian Gurmit Singh — advises the public not to be complacent and to “faster go and vaccinate”.

He convinces his wife Rosie — played by actress Irene Ang — to get her shot, dishing out facts about Covid-19 vaccines in between flashy dance moves and catchy lyrics.

“Chronic illnesses, mild allergies, all these can take, there you see. If not sure, relax, don’t panic. Ask your doctor at the clinic,” Phua advises in the two-minute pop song entitled Get Your Shot, Steady Pom Pi Pi. The latter phrase broadly means to “stay calm”.

“It’s safe for most, including elderly, because the Government got check properly,” he adds.

The music video was featured in a news article by Australia’s ABC News on Tuesday, as well as a report in British daily The Guardian which described the song as giving “surprisingly detailed medical advice” in the form of “informative disco”.

So far, the video has been met with amusement and largely received positively online, while also sparking comment about the Singlish expressions used.

One Twitter user based in Toronto, Canada, wrote: “Great. Now I want to get my shot in Singapore.”

At home, however, the video seems to have split opinions, with some questioning the release of a comedic video amid a recent uptick in community cases, from 10 cases in the week before to 60 cases in the past week.

“Ngl (Not gonna lie), wrong timing,” one user wrote on YouTube. Another commented: “Why y’all upload this now when the cases are going up?”

Others cheered at seeing their favourite contractor bringing smiles amid difficult times.

One comment on YouTube perhaps best encapsulated Phua’s unique charms: “So cringe that I love it.”

Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd, the sitcom about an endearingly nouveau riche contractor and his family, ran from 1997 to 2007 on Channel 5, winning Best Comedy Programme at the Asian Television Awards for six consecutive years.

It also won Gurmit the award for Best Comedy Actor five times. In 2009, the series was resurrected by Malaysia’s NTV7 in the spin-off series, Phua Chu Kang Sdn Bhd.

Back in 2003 during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak, the eccentric contractor rapped about taking precautions and practising good hygiene in the famous Sar-Vivor rap song.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, Gurmit has reprised his role for two other public service videos on the channel — a song called Singapore Be Steady and a video where he speaks about how Singaporeans can protect themselves from the coronavirus.

Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, reacting to the buzz over Phua’s latest track, wrote on Twitter: “Get vaccinated! Otherwise we will have to keep playing this video ad nauseum” followed by a laughing emoji. — TODAY

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