Education Minister Lawrence Wong said on Monday (25 January) that the recent hike in imported COVID-19 cases in the country is not due to more travellers entering Singapore, but rather due to higher infection rates of the coronavirus across other countries in the world.
“We have not increased (the number of) travellers coming into Singapore,” Mr Wong said at a dialogue organised by the Institute of Policy Studies focused on a post-pandemic Singapore.
“Why have the numbers gone up? It’s simply because the prevalence rate, the incidence rate, of the disease is much higher now. The virus is raging in countries everywhere,” he added.
Mr Wong, who is co-chair of the Government’s COVID-19 task force, said this in response to a question raised by an audience who wanted to know how the Republic plans to sustain its trade and economy while still striking a balance in the risk of imported cases amid the increase in cases worldwide.
Singapore recorded 44 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and all of them were imported.
Just a day earlier on Sunday, it reported 48 new imported cases, which is the highest number of imported cases since 23 March last year.
During the dialogue, Mr Wong also noted that the biggest sources of travellers are construction and foreign domestic workers, and that the number of these workers coming into Singapore has not increased “in recent times”.
He also explained that travellers have to take a pre-departure test 72 hours prior arrival.
“But the nature of these sorts of test is that they are not foolproof,” he said, adding that some people can initially test negative as the virus is being incubated in the body.
This is the reason why travellers have to observe the stay-home notices of 14 days or up to 21 days in some countries, in order to not allow the highly contagious virus to spread into the community, Mr Wong said.
“Those are precautions that we have been taking all along and we will continue to take… even as we have a continuous flow of people coming in, which is needed for Singapore’s economy and society to function,” he expressed.
He continued, “We do all that is necessary to take the necessary precautions and safeguards, and isolate these cases from seeping through our community.”
Upon reading Mr Wong’s explanation, netizens took to TODAY‘s Facebook page, which garnered close to 400 comments, to slam the Minister for his illogical reply.
The comments mostly discussed several issues, the first being that if Mr Wong is saying that the prevalence rate and incidence rate is high, then the logical thing to do is to close Singapore’s borders.
One user said, “Please do not twist fact”, adding that no one should be allowed to enter Singapore unless they are tested negative three days before boarding the plane.
Some online users opined that the Government is shifting the blame on other countries and that those on non-essential pass holders like dependent pass should not be allowed to enter Singapore for the time being.
Others pointed out that Singapore should temporarily not allow people coming from countries where the virus is raging, in order to prevent COVID-19 from spreading into the community.
They explained that since the virus is still extremely active in other countries around the globe, then Singapore should not take the risk by opening its border to people from overseas.
One user said that the Government constantly tells Singaporeans to not be complacent, avoid large gatherings and always maintain a safe distance in order to contain the spread of the virus.
However, it allows travellers into the country, indicating a double standard.