Accurate and timely information engenders greater trust for Covid-19 fight: Iswaran

(From left) Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran, senior manager of Jurong Regional Library Lim Lee Ping and CEO of National Library Board Ng Cher Pong. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - It is important for citizens to receive timely and accurate information from reliable sources, which engenders greater trust and cooperation in the national fight against Covid-19, said Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran on Wednesday (July 1).

Speaking during the reopening of Jurong Regional Library, which like all libraries had been closed since the circuit breaker began on April 7, Mr Iswaran cited a recent poll showing eight in 10 Singapore citizens and permanent residents felt the Government had provided sufficient information relating to the Covid-19 situation.

Mr Iswaran said that the Government has tried many ways to provide information to people, including via the WhatsApp service. "Because people need to know what is happening, what they need to do, and why they need to do it," he said.

"If we can achieve that, then I think we can engender far greater trust and cooperation in this very important effort (against Covid-19)."

The poll was carried out online from June 16 to 21, and involved 1,017 Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 15 and above to understand their sentiments on the Covid-19 outbreak.

From Wednesday, all 25 public libraries and the National Library Building will be open from 11am to 7pm daily instead of the usual 10am to 9pm, until further notice.

Restrictions will be in place. For instance, capacity will be limited to 50 people per floor. Visits will be kept to 30 minutes, and users are encouraged to make an online booking for their visit.

Seating and study areas, including newspaper and multimedia stations, remain closed. All programmes, guided tours and events in physical spaces remain suspended.

Mr Iswaran noted that borrowing of electronic books went up by 150 per cent during the circuit breaker compared with the same period last year, and there had been 1.4 million views of the National Library Board's digital offerings, from e-newspapers to digital storytelling.

There had also been a 70 per cent increase in e-book borrowers this year compared with 2019.

Asked how library users' experience would be affected with the restrictions in place, Mr Iswaran acknowledged that the library was not just a place for borrowing books or making a specific transaction.

"There is something to be said about the experience of physically visiting a library as opposed to digitally borrowing a book. It is qualitatively different; both are valuable in their own right," he said.

He said that safety remained the top consideration, and having a Covid-19 incident or cluster at libraries would mean taking a big step backwards.

"I think if we can work collaboratively with the cooperation of patrons… we would be able to do more and do much more quickly as well."

Hua Yi Secondary School student Trina Lim, 15, who was one of the visitors on Wednesday, said she used to frequent the library a few times a week before it was shut.

"During the period of closure, I just read the books I had on hand. I prefer physical books over e-books, as they don't strain the eyes as much," she added.

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