Singapore GE2020: Facts show task force handled Covid-19 crisis well, says Lawrence Wong

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on July 7, 2020.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on July 7, 2020.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

He cites low fatality, community infection rates and help given to migrant workers

The Covid-19 task force has handled the current crisis well in terms of numbers relating to community infection, fatality rate and how it has helped migrant workers, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong yesterday.

But at the end of the day, the fight against the coronavirus is ongoing, and Singaporeans will have to judge the task force's performance, he said.

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the task force combating the Covid-19 outbreak, was responding to a question during a virtual briefing about the virus situation in Singapore.

A reporter had asked Mr Wong about his thoughts on how voters will assess the task force's performance, and whether this will affect the People's Action Party vote share in the July 10 general election.

"If you look at what we have achieved up till now, the outcomes are quite clear," said Mr Wong.

"We have been able to bring down infection rates in the community significantly and protected many Singaporeans, especially the vulnerable ones. We have been able to achieve a fatality rate which is amongst the lowest in the world.

"Where the cases in the dormitories are concerned... I do not know of any other country that has mounted as significant an operation as Singapore has in taking care of its migrant workers."

On the migrant worker situation, Mr Wong said the task force is in the process of testing all the workers.

He added that beyond taking care of their health, the Government has also taken care of their well-being, food and salaries. "We have done everything we can to ensure the overall well-being of these workers because we know that they are an important part of our society," he said.

Mr Wong also noted that the task force has been transparent with how it has dealt with the crisis and provided regular updates on its work through the media.

The Government's management of the Covid-19 situation has become a political issue in recent days, with opposition candidates questioning if the situation could have been handled better.

 
 
 
 

Among them is Professor Paul Tambyah, an infectious diseases expert and a candidate from the Singapore Democratic Party.

Prof Tambyah had flagged the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) advisory warning employers against sending asymptomatic workers for Covid-19 testing earlier this year as a mistake, among other issues.

He said telling employers they could lose their workforce privileges if they go against the advisory is a "violation of public health 101".

Mr Wong and the relevant authorities have rebutted the allegation.

Yesterday, the Health Ministry's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said his ministry had asked MOM to issue the advisory.

This was after hospitals gave feedback that employers were asking doctors to confirm that their workers were free of Covid-19. Not only was this not possible, it was also distracting accident and emergency (A&E) staff from attending to patients that required urgent help.

"A circular was sent out and I understand that nearly a week later, a second advisory was sent out because there were employers still persistent in sending their workers to the A&E," Associate Professor Mak said. "Therefore, MOM then issued a more strongly worded directive."

Yesterday, Mr Wong also thanked all those who have helped in Singapore's fight against Covid-19.

"This fight is far from over, there is still so much that we need to do, and that's why we have asked for everyone to focus their minds on what is critical," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2020, with the headline 'Facts show task force handled Covid-19 crisis well: Wong'. Print Edition | Subscribe