It has now been announced by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) that the Government will waive the cost of swab tests for construction workers until August this year. This latest update comes after almost two weeks of speculation on whether or not employers will have to budget for these tests in the wake of statements by Minister for National Development, Lawrence Wong.
Construction companies were told that they would have to pay for their workers’ COVID-19 tests every two weeks which comes up to $400 per month if they were to commence work after the Circuit Breaker is lifted after 1 June.
Wong, who is also co chair of of the multi ministry taskforce, had said in an earlier press conference that as the government ramps up COVID-19 testing requirements on migrant workers, he had “no doubt” that “the company (employer) must bear the cost”.
Just like the “whether or not to wear mask” saga, it is yet another policy U turn? Why is that the case?
While there is a need for employers to be responsible in looking after their workers, we need to look at things in context. We must not forget that our government policies allowed for the migrant workers to be housed in the manner that they were. We must also bear in mind that the government did not act in February when the first migrant worker infection was made public.
In that regard, the government did unwittingly enable the rampant spread of the corona virus within the migrant worker community. Looking at the situation holistically, is it fair to push the entire brunt of the costs on the businesses in the first place?
Without going too much into the merits of who should bear the costs, what is concerning is the government’s seeming policy inconsistencies where COVID-19 is concerned. Or rather, are members of the government speaking to the press before consulting with industry groups or other members of the government?
Is there a strategy or is the government just reacting to situations as they arise?
In a time of crisis, the seeming “yo-yoing” of policies might create a sense of disquiet. It might also result in speculation and the proliferation of unsubstantiated rumours.
As stated by Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, the government is concerned about the spread of untruths. However, if the government appears to be shifting on decisions and instructions at a time of crisis, the ground will be ripe for rumours. Why target the effects instead of the underlying cause?
Arguably, the coronavirus is the worst crisis that our young country has ever faced. With this pandemic as the backdrop, the government needs to ensure that its messaging is consistent. Otherwise, it runs the risk of looking indecisive in the battle against the virus. This is not a reassuring image.