Suggestion to penalise those who have not been vaccinated for the coronavirus by depriving their access to supermarkets is “highly objectionable”, given that the vaccine has only been granted emergency status at this stage, said co-founder of ChorusArt Iris Koh.
Ms Koh was referring to former diplomat Prof Tommy Koh’s Facebook post on Sunday (25 July).
In his post, Prof Koh lauded ST’s commentary piece entitled “Nuanced approach better than blanked curbs in dealing with rising COVID-19 infections in S’pore” by senior health correspondent Salma Khalik, calling it a “well-reasoned” article.
Inspired by the commentary, Prof Koh proceeded to make his own comments on the rising COVID-19 infections in Singapore, and suggested several approaches that the Government can adopt to tackle it.
One of Singapore’s largest active clusters at present is the KTV cluster, which has grown to a total of 237 cases as of Sunday. Over 400 nightlife establishments that have pivoted into F&B outlets have been suspended for two weeks due to the spike in the cluster cases.
Hence, Prof Koh highlighted in his post that some of the KTV operators who have violated the law should be punished.
“I am not sure whether it is right to punish all KTV lounges. Collective punishment is not a good thing,” he wrote.
Prof Koh also noted that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) should respond to the “serious accusations” made by political intelligence analyst Andy Wong, who claimed that KTV lounges are controlled by organised crime and are illegal brothels.
The Jurong Fishery Port cluster, which has overtaken the KTV cluster as the current largest active cluster in Singapore, has grown to 792 cases as of Sunday.
Despite the spikes in the cluster cases, Prof Koh urged the Government to keep the seaports and airports open for the “survival and prosperity” of the country.
“We should have good controls to prevent the entry of anyone who is infected with the virus. Was there a slip up at the Jurong Fishery Port which enabled one or more infected persons to enter that port. If this is the case, the problem should be fixed at that port,” he said.
On his third point, Prof Koh noted that those who have been vaccinated for the virus should be rewarded, while those who are unvaccinated without a valid reason should be penalized.
“I there[fore] propose that we bar entry by unvaccinated persons to our markets, supermarkets, hawker centres, restaurants, bars, concerts, weddings, sports events and places of religious worship. Fully vaccinated persons should be allowed entry to all such places,” he asserted.
Prof Koh went on to say that the Government should allow dine-in in groups of eight persons only for those who have been fully vaccinated to help the F&B sector.
“Our F&B sector have suffered enough and we should help them now before it is too late for some of them. To the best of my knowledge no one has caught the virus in any of our restaurants,” he remarked.
Iris Koh’s response to Prof Tommy Koh
However, one local business owner refuted Prof Koh’s assertion that unvaccinated persons should be penalized.
In a Facebook post on Monday (26 July), Ms Koh said that she felt disappointed that such a statement came from a former Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN).
Prof Koh was Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the UN from 1968 to 1971, and again from 1974 to 1984. He was also the Ambassador to the United States of America from 1984 to 1990.
“I have always respected and looked up to you sir. But today I feel very sad that if even someone who has been a champion for the United Nations can make such comments on your Facebook wall, then what hope can I have for others in Singapore to look out for basic human rights issues of citizens like me?” she wrote.
Ms Koh pointed out that penalizing those who refused to take the vaccine would violate the Nuremberg Code, which refers to the set of standards that physicians must conform to when carrying out experiments on human subjects.
One of the standards includes voluntary consent of the human subject, which is deemed “absolutely essential”. It stated that the person involved in the experiment should possess “legal capacity” to give consent.
Nuremberg Code also stated: “The duty and responsibility for ascertaining the quality of the consent rest upon each individual who initiates, directs or engages in the experiment. It is a personal duty and responsibility which may not be delegated to another with impunity.”
Hence, Ms Koh believes that unvaccinated persons should neither be penalized nor deprived of basic access to markets, given that the vaccine is still in the experimental phase and has only been granted emergency status by all the regulatory bodies.
“The narrative that the non-vaxxed are to be blamed for the current situation is a highly dangerous one,” she asserted.
“When you make such statements, given your status and position, it gives others the permission to treat us like we are selfish and irresponsible when all we are trying to do is to do what is best for the country and for ourselves, with the limited information we have of vaccine injury and death numbers in Singapore.”
Ms Koh also pointed out that the Health Sciences Authority’s (HSA) data only discloses the injury numbers relating to the vaccine, and discounts the number of death linked to the vaccine.
“Granting that all the injury numbers are not conclusively caused by the vaccine too, why not also include the death numbers?
“What are the criterias to say if an injury or death is caused by the vaccine? Should a third party be involved to verify the links since there is a clear conflict of interest in the administering party of the vaccine and the party saying whether it’s linked or not linked,” she questioned.
Ms Koh went on to say that the Government should engage a third party to verify the injury and death numbers linked to the vaccine before forcing people to be vaccinated.
“If we are indeed forced to take the vaccine by preventing our access to essential services and basically just the right to be able to live in Singapore by going to the supermarket/market, then perhaps the government ought to be totally transparent about vaccine injury numbers and deaths after taking the vaccine to the public and have a third party to verify the numbers reported. This is in the best interest of public health and safety,” she expressed.
Ms Koh further explained that she feels unsure of the vaccine safety after witnessing the sudden death of her friend’s family members who had just taken the vaccine.
She concluded her post saying, “I understand that you like many others must be worried and concerned about the current situation and I hope that you can reconsider the impact of your statements.
“I’m part of a group of people who are very concerned about vaccine issues and other ways to combat the virus and we hope that we can meet with you to have a constructive dialogue.”