SINGAPORE - Paramedics from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) have been wearing protective equipment when responding to all types of emergency medical situations, and not just when attending to suspected coronavirus patients, since the disease outbreak response level was raised to orange.
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Home Affairs Amrin Amin said this on Wednesday (Feb 12) as he urged the public to remain calm when they encounter SCDF paramedics in protective gear, as this is now required of them for all cases.
This measure has been in place since Feb 7, when the Health Ministry raised the disease outbreak response level.
Speaking to the media during a visit to the SCDF headquarters, Mr Amrin also said that ambulances are thoroughly cleansed and decontaminated after sending suspected coronavirus patients to a hospital.
Mr Amrin, who was there to encourage front-line workers, including paramedics and call operators, noted that front-line officers and healthcare workers have faced discrimination from members of the public, who fear they may carry the virus.
Reports have emerged of nurses who have been asked to take the stairs instead of the lifts, and ambulance drivers who have been asked not to buy food, so as not to "contaminate others", he said.
"These are very unfortunate incidents and it's very disgraceful. It does not reflect the best of us as Singaporeans," said Mr Amrin.
Singaporeans must stand united and together in times of crisis, he said, adding that the public should encourage and support the ordinary men and women who are serving the country in this time of need.
"We need to condemn the disgraceful acts by the small minority, and we need to make it clear that these acts do not represent us," he added.
SCDF said as of Wednesday morning, the agency has responded to 219 suspected cases of coronavirus patients, but it has been able to cope with the increased number of calls in recent weeks.
SCDF's chief medical officer, Colonel (Dr) Shalini Arulanandam, said operators and paramedics help to screen for suspected coronavirus cases by asking a set list of questions.
"We do get additional calls now as compared with before, so it's even more important that the public call us only for emergencies," said Col (Dr) Shalini.
She urged the public to continue to visit their general practitioners if they are unwell. These doctors will then screen the patients and give them the appropriate directions.