As the Government announced that Singapore will go into Phase 1 of the post circuit breaker from 2 June onwards, many are upset that not all businesses will be allowed to re-open.
On Monday (25 May), Minister of National Development Lawrence Wong took this matter to his Facebook to explain why the Government will not be lifting all businesses right away after the circuit breaker ends.
Starting off his post with a general warning that no countries have fully eradicated the coronavirus even with the tightest lockdown, he noted that Singapore is facing the same situation as well.
Mr Wong also described that the other countries that have successfully lowered their COVID-19 cases observed a rebound in numbers when they resumed their activities. He added that more cases were seen when activities were resumed precipitously, while fewer cases were recorded when done cautiously.
“All the countries that have been beaten the virus to low levels have seen a rebound in cases when they resumed activities – more when they resumed precipitously; less when they proceeded cautiously.”
To prevent Singaporeans from being complacent about the gradual re-opening, the Minister alerted that Singapore will also observe a rise in cases when activities are being resumed. He stated that there are still “hidden cases” in the general population.
“For example, when we did a test of around 16,000 pre-school teachers recently, we detected 8 cases. There are bound to be other undetected asymptomatic cases in the community. That’s why we have to move cautiously.”
Therefore, he asserted that all activities and businesses will not be allowed to re-open at the same time, adding that it is a “tough decision” to determine which ones can go first.
Mr Wong used physiotherapy as an example to compare to spas and massage centres, questioning if the Government should allow the latter to re-open since physiotherapy services will be permitted.
This particular example confused many Singaporeans as they penned their thoughts in the comments section under his Facebook post. Seeing how many corrected him that physiotherapy is not the same as spas and massage centres, Mr Wong then corrected his post by adding that some business owners have requested to re-open.
He further clarified earlier today (26 May) that the physiotherapy and spas/massage are different, hinting that the Government has deemed physiotherapy as a “greater priority”.
“Obviously the services are different – the former is an integral part of healthcare, and that’s why we accord it greater priority.”
Worrying that Singapore may observe a rebound greater than what the Government is expecting, Mr Wong explained that each time the Government eases up on something, it is technically allowing more face-to-face contacts and people movement within the community.
He went on to say that the Government would like to “say yes” to all the requests, but there is a concern on higher transmission risks and possible spike in infections.
Seeing how many Singaporeans are “disappointed” by the Government’s cautious approach, Mr Wong assured that it is prioritising both lives and livelihoods. He also hoped for Singaporeans’ appreciation and understanding in regards to the Government’s effort in keeping the infection rates low.
He proceeded to explain that the Government will continue with their “pro-active testing”, adding that Singapore will move to the next phase “around the end of June” if all goes well.
“With a phased re-opening, we will have a better control of the overall situation. If new cases were to emerge, we will be able to detect and ring-fence them quickly. At the same time, we will continue with our pro-active testing of different segments of the population. If all goes well, then we will move to the next phase around the end of June, and resume more activities then.”
Mr Wong concluded by saying that the Government will continue to provide assistance to businesses that are unable to re-open. This support will also be given to households and workers.
Netizens unhappy with how Mr Wong compared physiotherapy to spas and massage centres
As mentioned earlier, a handful of people commented under Mr Wong’s Facebook post, clarifying that physiotherapy services could not be compared to spas and massage centres. They pointed out that physiotherapy is a licensed healthcare service accredited by the Ministry of Health.
Facebook user Chee Wai Siong Wes commented that such comparison was “made in poor taste” as it shows “a lack of understanding”. In response to Mr Chee’s comment, Mr Wong noted that he has updated his original Facebook post with amendments regarding the earlier comparison he made.
Zoe Yam, a physiotherapist, was concerned that physiotherapy is being “equated” or “associated” with massage centres. She pointed out that physiotherapists spend time explaining the services they provide to their patients, adding that Mr Wong’s statement did not help the general public to understand what they do.
Sylvia Yx Peng criticised the comparison made by the Minister, saying that it was “insulting”. She remarked that physiotherapy is a legitimate medical need, not an elective service “like spa or a massage”.