Health Minister Gan Kim Yong has earlier said on 14 Feb that the government has no plans to raise the national disaster alert response from Orange to Red despite the continued spike in corona virus cases in Singapore and enhanced measures to close businesses, schools and enforce social-distancing.
At the press conference back in February, Minister Gan said, “I want to say categorically that we have no plans to go to DORSCON Red. So please help me stop these rumours going forward, so that we can focus our efforts in dealing with our patients, and support them.”
The “Disease Outbreak Response System Condition”(DORSCON) which is essentially a colour-coded framework that shows the current disease situation put together by the government to provide Singaporeans with general guidelines on what needs to be done to prevent and reduce the impact of infections was raised from yellow to orange recently, amid indications that the disease known as Covid-19 was spreading in the community.
The major difference between Orange and Red is that at DORSCON Red, there are severe disruptions such as school closures, work from home orders and the disease is deemed widespread and severe.
But isn’t that where we are now?
This is especially so, in light of the government announcing that “Circuit Breaker” measures will be extended till 1 June due to the discovery of asymptomatic cases within the community and the spike in infected cases.
The numbers of cases in Singapore are continually rising — to the point of being the highest in South-East Asia. Despite it being largely within the ranks of our migrant workers, it is imperative to remember that Singapore is a very small country where if the cases within our dormitories are not brought down, it will eventually spill over and come back to the population.
Mr Gan had said that moving the DORSCON level is a judgment call “to a very large extent”, which also takes into account advice and expert inputs from professionals, and a general assessment of the situation.
How is that judgement call exercised?
And how does the government take into account, the holding of a general election amidst the COVID-19 pandemic?
Following the release of the reviewed election boundaries in March, Opposition parties in Singapore have called for the Prime Minister to categorically rule out the general election being convened till a point where the pandemic is put under control, but the ruling party dismissed the call by carrying on their walkabouts while the COVID-19 pandemic was still ongoing.
TOC also reported that contractors engaged by the Election Department were preparing for the GE — said to be in May/June — by hiring temporary staff and organising training sessions.
When asked about how he will decide on when to call a general election, PM Lee said the ideal situation is that things will settle within the next six months, and then an election can be held.
“But nobody can say – it may well get worse, and I expect it can easily get worse before it gets better,” said Mr Lee on 27 March.
“You have to make a judgment in this situation with an outbreak going on, with all sorts of exceptional measures implemented in Singapore, is it possible for us to conduct an election and to get this done so that we clear the decks and we can go through and deal with whatever lies ahead?”
It was only till recently that the People’s Action Party officially ceased all forms of ground engagement following the enhanced “Circuit Breaker” measures but PM Lee continues to keep his cards close to his chest in regards to the timing of the GE.
Mr Gan has also said that “the battle to stop the spread of the virus is already challenging enough and that the government did not “really want to have to spend efforts stopping the spread of rumours.”
Wanting to focus on combating the virus is fair enough but why then is it seemingly still wanting to spend time and resources on holding a general election?
If you want to focus on fighting the virus, why not postpone the general election until such time as when we have the virus under control? Wouldn’t holding a general election in this period take focus away from fighting COVID-19?
It is one or the other surely. If we are only at DORSCON Orange, then we shouldn’t be essentially shut down till 1 June. If we need to be shut down, then we are already at DORSCON Red.
Some have rationalised the decision against a heightened DORSCON level is against the possibility of a panic attack as seen in the DORSCON Orange announcement. But perhaps, the other possible reason is that the Prime Minister will find it hard to justify calling for a General Election to be held during DORSCON Red and it will be uncertain when Singapore can see its number of cases fall to the point of reverting back to DORSCON Orange.