Dear Minister Ng or (to whom it may concern),
I am writing in with regards to the current measures in place for our NSFs and NS men. I thank you first and foremost for temporarily bringing to a halt all non-essential in camp activities such as Basic Military Training (BMT); this is a good first step in this critical period.
I hope you may consider possibly put all in-camp living, except that which is truly necessary, on hold temporarily. There are “essential” defence units, and truly essential units, in the context of a global pandemic that is already ravaging Singapore.
For example, I am aware that certain “essential” groups are still in camp, for example, those in the Specialist Cadet School and the Officer Cadet School of the Singapore Army.
I may be speaking out of ignorance of not knowing the rationale for their continued training, in which case I ask for your understanding of not knowing better, but it would seem dangerous that in a time of a global pandemic of a highly infectious disease, we are still putting clusters of our boys together in camp, preparing them for their subsequent postings.
It would be disastrous (as it already is) if what is happening to the foreign workers in Singapore happens to the NSFs and NS men still in camp.
As a preventive healthcare specialist (as well as a former NSF who spent close to 2 years in a bunk), the environment of living in camp is a ticking time bomb for an outbreak, even with the advanced safety measures. All it takes is one of the boys or the contracted personnel to bring it into camp after book out, or due to every day in and out of camp travel.
Given the incubation period of the virus, its possible asymptomatic mode of transmission, and its rapid spread, this has a significant probability of happening, whether you have safety checks at the entrance or not. It’s very possibly not a matter of if but a matter of when.
An analogy would be how despite our vigilance with temperature screening checks at the airports, the number of cases has surged in Singapore, significantly due to those living in communal living spaces such as dorms.
There is going to be a true eruption of a public outcry if this outbreak happens among SAF personnel, in particular, if anything serious happens to one of the NSFs whose parents entrust into the hands of Ministry of Defence (MINDEF).
I don’t mean this in a threatening way sir, but this is the reality of the situation, and the outcry will be overwhelming, given that a warning had already been issued in the form of the outbreak among our foreign workers.
I hope you may not take the smallest of risks in allowing the tragedy of the death of an NSF/NS men to re-occur, even if the risk of passing on from COVID-19 is low for the lower age groups. If a large number of young people have it, statistically, there will be one very unfortunate person who may pass away from it, and this is preventable if we act now, Sir.
I hence hope you may consult the relevant specialists on possibly halting all truly unnecessary stay-in activity during this circuit breaker.
I am not saying that we should neglect our vigilance on national defence that has always kept Singapore in good stead, but that we should not be vigilant to a point where we do more harm than good, in particular to our own citizens, in the time of a global pandemic. It is possible to remain functionally defended, but in a way with minimal possible risk to NSFs/NS men, and I hope you may strive for that truly minimal risk, and continue with activity and in camp living for activities that are only truly, essential.
Yours most sincerely,
Yeoh Lai Hsin