MP Pritam Singh

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have a few questions for Minister MTI, Mr Gan Kim Yong and originally, Minister for Health, but I think I will direct them to the Minister for Home Affairs.

The first series of questions pertain to the differentiated regime between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, which is part of the coming to terms and treating COVID-19 as endemic in the community. The query pertains to the negative pre-event tests that unvaccinated individuals will be required to undertake. A few days ago in Israel, the Prime Minister announced that the unvaccinated individual there will pay for the test. I do not believe Minister clarified who pays for that test in Singapore. So, it would be helpful for the Minister to clarify that.

The second question directed at Minister Gan pertains to supply issues of the vaccine. I think, previously, in updates that the MTF had given, is this still a problem or are we on track to open the economy in concert with the plan that MTF has announced, by, I believe, it is September now?

The questions specifically on the KTV issues, indeed, as Minister Ong Ye Kung has mentioned earlier, lots of disappointment amongst Singaporeans, but I thought it would be important to have at least some understanding of common facts before coming to conclusions.

So, the first question is with regard to the enforcement regime at the pivoted establishments, was it a heightened sort of enforcement regime? The Minister mentioned a few numbers – 202 enforcements from October last year to July this year. But was there some specific attention paid on pivoted KTV establishments? I think earlier on, Minister Lawrence Wong spoke in a Facebook post about a cat and mouse game. The Minister referred to that as well. Were additional conditions imposed on certain operators in view of their past record or reputation, so to speak? And in this regard, again, was there a differentiated regime from the enforcement agencies to pay more attention to some of these establishments?

The Minister spoke of, I think, a total of seven establishments – and I stand corrected if I am wrong – seven establishments that have seen their licences revoked but about 10% of the pivoted KTV establishments have been in breach of regulations. Are the licences for that 10% – which I think will extend to 40 establishments – going to be revoked as well?

And, finally, I have received some emails from members of the public about warnings that they have given the authorities about some of these KTV establishments. How many warnings or pieces of feedback did – not just MHA but also MOH and the other agencies – receive on egregious SMM violations in KTV establishments?

Mr Gan Kim Yong: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Let me first address the question on economic reopening. It is still on track and the key is to look at the progress in our vaccination programme, which, as Minister for Health has explained just now, is picking up momentum. But it is important for us to focus a lot more on the vaccination of our senior population which is of a greater concern to all of us. As soon as we are able to reach our vaccination rate of 80% and above around September or October, we will be able to move in a bigger way to reopen the economy.

But I also want to point out that we are not likely to have a big bang reopening because it is important for us, as Minister Ong and I have mentioned earlier, to continue to monitor the number of severe cases. If we do have many serious cases, we will have a problem with the capacity of our healthcare system which will then result in a higher mortality rate. So, we need to continue to keep an eye on our number of serious cases and at the same time, make sure that our vaccination rate is high. Then, we will be able to progressively, step-by-step, reopen our economy or open up our borders to allow for travel in and out of Singapore. And as I have mentioned in my speech, these details are still being worked out and we will share more details later on.

I will ask Minister Lawrence Wong to talk about testing because this relates to the national policy on testing.

Mr Lawrence Wong: Thank you. The question, I believe, was about who pays for the cost of tests, if the person is unvaccinated, to get into a venue. The thinking is that the rule is that for certain activities, certain settings, we will require vaccinated persons only. And from the Government’s side, the rule will be that if the person is not vaccinated, not fully vaccinated, then he will have to produce a confirmed negative test. That is the requirement.

How to go about that? We will let venue operators and owners decide. They may want to do it free. They may want to set up an operation. A restaurant might want to do that; a venue operator might want to do that; a MICE event organiser might want to do that, because it says, “Look, I want to do that to let unvaccinated persons come in.” If not, then, he may well say, “Look, it is up to the individual. The individual has to go to the clinic, get a test and then show me the result.” 

So, the Government sets the rule, the framework. Individual organisations that are looking at the framework can then decide whether or not they want to provide the test for their customers, or if they will require their customers to get the test from a clinic.

Mr K Shanmugam: As I noted, I think there were four questions, if I got it right, from Mr Pritam Singh.

First, on the enforcement regime, I think Mr Singh wanted to know if it is heightened. We can assume that if there was one enforcement action per day, it is quite intense and it has been so from October of last year to July of this year, right from the beginning. This is quite apart from what Safe Distancing Ambassadors and so on do.

Second, I think Mr Singh wanted to know if there was a particular focus on pivoted outlets. I gave the breakdown just now. Not all were targeted at pivoted outlets. In fact, there were a number who were not to be operating at all and, in fact, totally illegal operations. And I would say, in terms of seriousness, those are particularly pernicious, in terms of transmission, the kind of activities and so on. And nothing is supposed to be happening in a warehouse. They set up and they do everything. So, those kinds of operations were busted as well. So, a broad range and also F&B operations which were not pivoted operations, just simply reopening. Also, some of them had been in breach. Do not mistake me to think that every single one was, therefore, engaging in what we might consider to be shady activities. Sometimes, there were breaches also. But we needed to target a broad range.

Third, I think Mr Singh wanted to know – seven have been closed, but I pointed out that 10% were in breach, about 40-odd out of the 400 which had pivoted. And are they going to be closed? I assume Mr Singh is not asking for the closing down of every operation as long as there is any breach. There is a framework. Depending on the nature of the breach, there will be a penalty. The penalty is transparent and the penalty will be imposed according to the kind of breach that has been committed. And I think most people will know that there is also a point system for breaches which lead to closure. Of course, got egregious breaches, there will be closure. But I would not ascribe to Mr Singh the suggestion that Police now should get even tougher and just close everyone down as long as there is one breach.

The last point I think was whether warnings given by the public were taken seriously. I do not do the operations obviously, but I think most Members will know how, in general, the Police intel system is expected to work. Police have their own intelligence framework, their own ground framework and public tip-offs. A lot of crimes are solved by public tip-offs and they are important, they are taken seriously and I assume that goes into the assessment framework on what operations to conduct.

Mr Ong Ye Kung: There is a last question by Mr Pritam Singh on vaccine supplies. Supplies continue to be in shortage throughout the world. Many developing countries are still trying to secure supplies and, in the earlier stage of the pandemic, we, too, were short of supplies. But, fortunately, we had negotiated advance purchase agreements (APAs) with major suppliers in the early stage of the pandemic. And, lately, we were able to bring forward and confirm some of the deliveries. So, as of now, for the past month or two, we have not had a supply problem. Our constraint now is we need more people, especially our seniors, to come forward and get vaccinated.

26 July 2021

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