Singapore's Covid-19 superhero squad has taken cover following netizens' complaints

SINGAPORE – The fictional Covid-19-themed band of Singaporean superheroes called the Virus Vanguard has withdrawn to fight again another day, after a short-lived time in the limelight that drew flak from many netizens.

“The Virus Vanguard is undergoing a review,” said a post on the Gov.sg Facebook page that was posted on Monday (April 20) night, accompanied by blacked-out silhouettes of the characters.

“We have received quite a lot of feedback on the characters and we will be reviewing them. We are sorry if we offended anyone. As this is the first time we are exploring this content format, we appreciate your patience…

“If you have an idea or suggestion on the Virus Vanguard, do share with us.”

The five-member superhero team is the product of a collaboration between Gov.sg and local artist community group Band of Doodlers.

The Vanguard, comprising Dr Disinfector, Fake News Buster, Must Always Walk Alone (Mawa) Man, Circuit Breaker, and Care-leh Dee, made its first appearances on the Gov.sg website and Facebook page on Sunday.

By Monday night, both the previous Facebook post and the webpage had been taken down.

The team was described on the Gov.sg website as “the advance guard in our Covid-19 battle” in a parallel world, and readers were told to stay tuned for the first issue of a planned comics series.

Netizens had lambasted the Vanguard as an ill-timed attempt at levity that made a joke out of Singapore’s ongoing efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Much of the vitriol was directed at Mawa Man, who is supposed to be a fanatical fan of the Manchester United football club and whose name is a jibe at rival club Liverpool’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” anthem.

If it was all meant to be good-natured fun, the attempt has fallen flat flat.

Still, it has caught the attention of international sporting news publications like ESPN which picked up the story.

Meanwhile, netizen Colin Lim wrote in a reply to Gov.sg’s Monday post: “Here’s a suggestion: stop spending unnecessary resources on such cringeworthy campaigns.

“Direct the time and money to better causes that will actually make a difference now.”

The Virus Vanguard is not the Government’s first superhero-fronted campaign this year. In February, the Ministry of Education launched five superhero mascots aimed at encouraging children to practice good hygiene amid the Covid-19 outbreak.

They were called the Soaper 5.

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