Spreading information prematurely could cause confusion, alarm: Chan Chun Sing

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (in pink) and Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee (in green), who is also adviser to Jurong GRC grassroots organisations, speaking to residents during a ministerial community walkabout in
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (in pink) and Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee (in green), who is also adviser to Jurong GRC grassroots organisations, speaking to residents during a ministerial community walkabout in Jurong West yesterday. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Officials should not spread information prematurely as this could cause confusion and alarm during a crisis situation, said Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

"Internally, we will make sure that our processes are strengthened and our people involved in all these know their roles well," said Mr Chan, who is part of the multi-ministry coronavirus task force.

Mr Chan was responding to a question from The Straits Times about a Health Ministry press release last Friday announcing Singapore was moving to the code orange disease outbreak response status.

While the news officially broke after 5.20pm that day, an earlier version of the release was leaked to the public several hours before and was circulating widely on WhatsApp and other channels.

Mr Chan, who is also Trade and Industry Minister, said officials should have the discipline and maturity not to share information prematurely.

But at the same time, in order to work fast during a crisis situation, information needs to be shared simultaneously with multiple agencies, he said.

Mr Chan shared that when Singapore switched its Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) to orange, all ministries had to step up measures.

The Government was able to execute changes within a few hours because it worked as a network where "everybody chipped in".

Working on a purely hierarchical process would slow down the Government's response to contingencies, he added.

  • Measures against virus

  • MASK COLLECTION EXTENDED

    Households which have not collected their masks can do so at their community centre till Feb 29. Visit https://maskgowhere.sg or call 1800-333-9999 to find out where to go.

    PRECAUTIONS FOR SOCIAL FACILITIES

    Pre-schools and care or social facilities will allow only two designated caregivers or visitors per child or resident, and temperature taking will be done twice a day.

    People are encouraged to submit Baby Bonus forms and applications for other schemes administered by the Ministry of Social and Family Development online or by post.

    Parents can still pick up and drop off their children at pre-schools.

    TRANSPORT HYGIENE

    Handrails and seats on trains and buses are being disinfected more often, and staff are checking their temperature regularly. Taxis and private-hire cars are also being cleaned more often and ventilated after trips.

    Tee Zhuo

"We should not swing to the other extreme because of this incident, and then therefore, slow down the whole process and in the end, fellow Singaporeans don't get the information in a timely manner," he said.

Speaking to reporters after a walkabout in Jurong West, the minister also shared that business continuity plans have kicked in for various ministries after a joint advisory to employers by the Manpower Ministry, National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation last Friday.

Temperature checks and allowing staff to work from home were among some of the measures the advisory recommended following the shift to code orange.

Mr Chan said all private-sector employers and public agencies should adopt such measures, and shared that ministries have started to make preparations for possible split team arrangements.

(This will) make sure that we can continue to operate round the clock to serve Singaporeans, notwithstanding the challenges of the virus," he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2020, with the headline 'Spreading information prematurely could cause confusion, alarm: Chan'. Print Edition | Subscribe