Zika outbreak

Parliament to hear update on Zika battle

National Environment Agency officers putting granular pesticides in stagnant water in Siglap on Thursday. Ministers Gan Kim Yong and Masagos Zulkifli will speak on the spread of Zika when Parliament sits on Tuesday.
National Environment Agency officers putting granular pesticides in stagnant water in Siglap on Thursday. Ministers Gan Kim Yong and Masagos Zulkifli will speak on the spread of Zika when Parliament sits on Tuesday.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Two ministerial statements and questions by MPs on issue; House to also pay tribute to S R Nathan

The Zika scourge will top the agenda when Parliament sits next Tuesday, with two ministerial statements scheduled to be delivered on ways to battle and overcome the mosquito-borne virus.

The speeches will be by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong and Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, and a key point to be made is the need for everyone to cooperate and keep the Aedes mosquito at bay.

The House will also pay tribute to former president S R Nathan, who had a stroke in July and died last month, at age 92. He was Singapore's longest-serving president, holding office for two terms, from 1999 to 2011.

The spread of the Zika virus since last month has prompted a dozen questions from 10 MPs, on issues such as educating people on the truths and myths about Zika, checks on construction sites, and Zika's impact on the economy.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson), a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, noted that no one has yet to come down with a serious condition. But, she added, "any useful insights could help us in the future if something of a similar nature, whether health-related or otherwise, breaks out".

She wants to know what lessons have been learnt from the outbreak, including how to manage the situation and communicate information about it.

Ms Tin, who had her first child last year, also asked about aid for pregnant women suspected of having Zika.

"Would there be subsidies for scans if they need to go for more scans? Will counselling be offered if they need help coping during the emotional period?" she said.

Several MPs, including Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh from the Workers' Party, are concerned about controls on mosquito breeding at construction sites.

"Construction sites and the poor primary healthcare of construction workers could be the weak links in the fight against dengue and Zika," said Dr Goh.

He pointed out that in the first wave of locally transmitted Zika cases, most were from a construction site in Sims Drive.

Other issues the MPs asked about include the Silver Support Scheme, teen suicides and retrenchments.

Both Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) and Ms Tin want to know the success rate of appeals made to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board for inclusion in the Silver Support Scheme, which is for low-income seniors.

Mr Lim said some residents of rental flats, convinced they are poorer, wondered why their neighbours were included in the scheme and they were not.

"If there is a high number of successful appeals, it may mean the basic eligibility criteria could be fine-tuned," Mr Lim said.

The CPF (Amendment No. 2) Bill will be introduced to legislate changes to the retirement savings scheme.

The Bill to amend the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act will be debated and it will, among other things, make it a criminal offence for retailers ordered to close their shops to reopen them secretly later with a different name.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC), who was president of the Singapore Table Tennis Association from 2008 to 2014, has also filed an adjournment motion to talk for up to 20 minutes on getting Singapore to be a sporting nation.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2016, with the headline 'Parliament to hear update on Zika battle'. Print Edition | Subscribe