Netizens criticise MOM’s Leave of Absence rules and think it’s a joke

It was reported that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has suspended the work pass privileges of six employers and revoked the work pass for four foreign workers after they have found to have breached the leave of absence (LOA) requirements in place due to the current coronavirus outbreak.

The four foreign workers were caught working at their workplaces during their LOA period, said MOM.

Earlier on 31 Jan, MOM announced a mandatory 14-day LOA for all work pass holders with recent travel history to mainland China to be served upon their arrival in Singapore.

According to government website www.gov.sg, those on LOA should:

  • Stay at home
  • Minimise contact with other
  • Monitor their health closely

“They may leave home briefly to attend to matters, but must return home as soon as possible,” the website said.

“Residents, long-term pass holders who recently returned from China, and all workers returning from mainland China are required to take a 14-day LOA.”

However, the government did not specify how “soon” a person on LOA would need to return back home after he or she leaves home “briefly” to “attend to matters”.

For example, it’s entirely conceivable that a person on LOA may be carrying the coronavirus but nonetheless feels well enough to go meet people outside their home. LOA does not restrict the movements of those work pass holders coming back from China. They can still move about freely in Singapore.

Not surprisingly, many netizens felt LOA is a joke:

Heavy penalties and checks for self-quarantine in Hong Kong

While Singapore has quarantine for those who came back from Hubei, suspected cases and those who have had contact with the confirmed infected cases. It imposes LOA for those who came back from mainland China but are well.

As for Hong Kong, it issued a 14-days mandatory quarantine on last Friday (7 Feb) for those arriving from mainland China from 8 Feb onwards. A measure that some critics say was too late.

Anyone who has been to mainland China in the past 14 days and then flies into Hong Kong from another destination will also be quarantined.

Hong Kong residents arriving from mainland China will be allowed to self-quarantine at home. Chinese and international visitors will be able to self-quarantine at hotels or any other accommodation they have arranged at their own cost.

Those who cannot find accommodation will be taken to the temporary facilities prepared by the government.

Officials, backed by volunteers from the civil service and some students, will conduct spot checks or make daily phone calls to ensure people were staying at home or place of quarantine.

Those caught breaking their quarantine face up to six months in jail and a 25,000 Hong Kong dollar (S$4,472) fine.

However, such measures are not foolproof, say Dr Joseph Tsang Kay-yan, a Hong Kong private specialist in infectious disease.

Quoted by South China Morning Post, he said the move to allow Hongkongers to self-quarantine was little better than doing nothing at all.

“How could officers identify if people in quarantine are truly at home?” Tsang asked, noting that many people do not have landlines and rely on mobile numbers only.

Even if random checks are being performed by officers, Tsang said those quarantined could easily sneak out during non-working hours, when those checks were less likely to happen.

Tsang also took the government to task for allowing family members to come and go from home while sharing the space with potentially infected relatives. Better, he said, to have other household members move to a relative’s house or a hotel until the 14 days was up.

“You can’t tell whether you are a carrier of the virus,” Tsang said. “A person might not notice he or she has been infected, but the transmission might have already happened during the incubation period.”

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