Holding an election in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis will expose 2.6 million Singaporeans to the virus, warns Progress Singapore Party (PSP) chief Tan Cheng Bock.
Dr Tan, who has five decades of experience as a medical doctor, reiterated his stance that the Government should stall holding the next General Election (GE), particularly in the wake of 40 new recorded cases in Singapore on Fri.
Activities typically carried out during election season such as meeting the people during campaigning and casting votes at polling station, he said, runs contrary to “good advice to practice social distancing” by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health (MOH).
“Voting is compulsory by law. Candidates and their volunteers from all parties will move around neighbourhood estates, markets and make door to door home visits. Crowds will gather at rallies.
“On polling day, every Singaporean must physically cast their vote at polling stations in the presence of polling agents, policemen and many others,” he said.
“As a doctor, I am extremely concerned for those over 60 years old (especially the senior elderly) if an election is called soon,” said Dr Tan.
Just today, MOH announced its first fatalities from the COVID-19 virus. The first patient was a 75 year-old female Singapore Citizen and the second is a 64 year-old male Indonesian national. Both passed away from complications due to COVID-19 infection on Saturday (21 March) morning.
Dr Tan urged the Government to “listen to the doctors” to “avoid a potential health crisis”.
“This is a public health issue and we need to follow the advice of medical professionals, local (eg the Singapore Medical Association) and international (eg the WHO),” he said.
Previously in a speech last week, Dr Tan highlighted that countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom with pending elections have already postponed theirs.
He proposed three courses of action Singapore could take, namely:
- To call the General Election only at such a time when COVID-19 is no longer a crisis;
- To call the General Election at the end of the term which is April 2021; or
- If the COVID-19 crisis is still unresolved, to have the President exercise her soft power to form a caretaker government comprising some of the current MPs and subsequently call for fresh elections when the COVID-19 crisis is resolved.
Speculations of a snap election have arisen after the release of the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee report on 15 Mar as observers have predicted the election to be held within the next month.
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, co-chairman of the task force on COVID-19, said on Wed (18 Mar) that the upcoming GE will “very likely” happen while in the midst of the outbreak.
The next GE must be held by 15 Apr next year.
Speaking to CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia, Mr Wong explained that a number of medical experts have revealed that the virus may not go away any time soon. This means that the world’s fight against the deadly novel coronavirus could “drag on for a year and beyond a year,” he said.
“So, whatever the timing of the election, because it has to be held by April 2021, it is very likely that it will have to be held when COVID-19 is still circulating in our midst – that’s the reality,” said Mr Wong, who is also Singapore’s second finance minister.
However, the Government has yet to make any declaration regarding the matter.