Debate In 2 Minutes

Combating the scourge of Zika took centre stage at yesterday's Parliament sitting, with two ministers making statements on the issue.

The House also paid tribute to former president S R Nathan, who died last month at the age of 92.

Tribute to S R Nathan

Parliament observed a minute of silence for former president S R Nathan, who died on Aug 22.

Nine MPs rose to speak on his impact on Singapore before that. Speaker Halimah Yacob said the House "records with deep regret the passing of one of our esteemed sons of Singapore".

Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong described him as a compassionate man: "Way before Singaporeans became familiar with terms like inclusiveness and understanding invisible disabilities, Mr Nathan understood."

Curbing Zika

Two ministers gave a comprehensive update on the fight against Zika in separate ministerial statements.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong revealed that the authorities had expected the virus to spread here and made preparations. It had put in place a sentinel surveillance programme two years ago, with about 200 clinics islandwide collecting blood samples from patients with Zika-like symptoms.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli said it would be unwise to conduct fogging indiscriminately outside of Zika and dengue clusters, as chemicals have to come in direct contact with mosquitoes to kill them. Repeated fogging could also cause the mosquitoes to become immune to the chemicals.

Meanwhile, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Sim Ann said it is too early to say if Zika would affect tourism or the broader economy.

Dealing with teenage suicides

It is not reasonable to expect teenagers to take crisis calls from their suicidal peers, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin told MPs yesterday. For better awareness and dedication of resources, there should be just one hotline, he added.

Last month, two students from a top junior college killed themselves within 10 days of each other. Minister of State for Education Janil Puthucheary said his ministry reviews every case, and is undertaking a further review of its strategies to prevent suicides.

Appeals for Silver Support scheme

The Central Provident Fund Board has received since July about 2,300 appeals from members to be included under the Silver Support Scheme, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said.

He also reminded MPs that the scheme is part of a three-tier system to provide support for seniors with varying levels of need.

Rules for retailers

Parliament passed changes to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) Act yesterday which, among other things, give agency Spring Singapore powers to investigate and take enforcement action against retailers who persist in unfair practices.

Rachel Au-Yong

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline Debate In 2 Minutes. Subscribe