MPs call for greater clarity on Singapore's Covid-19 road map

The rapidly changing set of restrictions and the complicated requirements for support schemes have caused confusion, uncertainty and disruption over the past few weeks. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - MPs on Tuesday (July 27) called for greater clarity on the road map of Singapore's reopening to provide assurance and rein in anxiety, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on individuals and businesses.

This comes a day after Finance Minister Lawrence Wong delivered a ministerial statement in Parliament, in which he outlined some of the steps the Government will take in the coming weeks.

Several MPs said the rapidly changing set of restrictions and the complicated requirements for support schemes have caused confusion, uncertainty and disruption over the past few weeks.

Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC) of the Workers' Party (WP) said businesses had little time to react as Singapore eased and then tightened restrictions on dining in, social gatherings and events within the span of just over a month.

She asked for more information on how the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19 makes decisions and for the specific metrics it weighs when designing policies, so individuals and businesses can understand the criteria and make plans in advance.

The WP's Gerald Giam (Aljunied GRC) suggested that the Health Ministry should implement a Covid-19 "risk index" that takes into account factors like vaccination, hospitalisation, testing, contact tracing and infection rates - a suggestion also made by Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC).

This would secure more buy-in from the public and result in greater voluntary compliance with safe management measures, Mr Giam added.

Not many countries have come up with an accurate and widely understood risk index, and Singapore has a chance to lead the way, he noted.

Mr Dennis Tan (Hougang) of the WP asked the Government to share its targets for policies on working from home.

Businesses are uncertain how long working from home will remain the default arrangement and are struggling to make plans like whether to renew their rental agreements or downsize their office spaces, he said.

Several People's Action Party MPs also sought more clarity on Singapore's path forward.

Ms Foo called for a basic package of support measures that individuals and businesses can expect to receive whenever certain restrictions are announced, rather than an "uncertain drip-feeding of measures that many believe are subject to negotiation and lobbying".

Mr Sharael Taha (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) noted that temporary Covid-19-related roles such as swabbers, SafeEntry checkers, safe distancing ambassadors and vaccination staff may no longer be needed in the near future.

He asked if more can be done to prepare such workers to transition into other roles and avoid structural unemployment.

Nominated MP Cheng Hsing Yao said the Government has the unenviable task of making difficult decisions and implementing extraordinary and unprecedented measures to support businesses.

But repeated instances of interventions in private agreements through legislation could make businesses and investors wonder if this will be the norm going forward, he added.

Mr Cheng said the Government should state clearly, for example, whether intervention is to be limited to certain sectors like the real estate sector, or whether it would be applied more broadly if necessary.

"This will enable private companies to establish the correct assumptions when they draw up their business plans and legal contracts," he said.

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