Numerous false statements were made in a Facebook post by the States Times Review ("STR") on 13 February 2020 on the COVID-19 situation in Singapore.
On 13 February 2020, STR published a Facebook post on the COVID-19 situation in Singapore claiming that:
- The Government is unable to trace the source of infection for any of the infected COVID-19 cases in Singapore;
- The Government is "the only one" telling the public not to wear a mask;
- Each "China worker" will also get S$100 a day for 14 days of Leave of Absence, fully paid for by the Singapore government;
- Minister for Manpower, Mrs Josephine Teo, said that she was working hard to bring more workers from China into Singapore; and
- Seven countries have since banned travel to Singapore, citing lack of confidence in the Singapore government’s public health measures
The above are entirely false, for the following reasons:
- First, as of 12:00 pm on 13 Feb 2020, the Ministry of Health ("MOH") has established through epidemiological investigation and contact tracing that 51 out of the 58 cases have either had travel history to mainland China, or links with previously announced cases. Contact tracing is underway for the remaining seven locally-transmitted cases in an attempt to establish any links to previous cases or travel history to mainland China.
- Second, MOH's advice that there is no need for individuals who are well to wear a mask is in-line with the World Health Organisation's guidance on the use of masks in the community in the context of the COVID-19 outbreak. Health authorities in other countries such as the US and Australia have also expressly advised that they do not recommend that masks be worn by people who are well. As a good hygiene practice, people who are unwell and who have respiratory symptoms should wear a mask so that they minimise the risk of them infecting others.
- Third, Chinese Work Pass holders placed on a mandatory 14-day Leave of Absence ("LOA") do not receive the $100 daily support. Instead, it is their employer who would receive the support. Under the Leave of Absence Support Programme ("LOASP"), eligible employers can apply for $100 daily per affected worker for the required duration of paid LOA granted to the worker. The LOASP also covers all workers, regardless of nationality. This includes Singapore Citizens, Permanent Residents and Work Pass holders who have travelled to mainland China on or before 31 January 2020, and who were placed on LOA upon their return to Singapore on or after 31 January 2020.
- Fourth, at no time did the Minister for Manpower Mrs Josephine Teo say she was working hard to bring more Chinese workers back to Singapore. In fact, the Ministry of Manpower ("MOM") requires employers of work pass holders with travel history to mainland China to obtain prior approval so as to slow down their workers’ return to Singapore. MOM approved about 200 applications daily for planned arrivals between 9 and 12 Feb 2020, giving priority to applications in essential services like healthcare, transport and waste management so that operations in these sectors are not compromised. Many more applications were rejected.
- Fifth, as of 8:00 pm on 13 Feb 2020, no countries have banned travel to Singapore.
All work pass holders with travel history to mainland China within the last 14 days and who are planning to enter/return to Singapore after 2359 hrs on 8 February 2020, will be required to obtain MOM's prior approval before they commence their journey. This is regardless of the nationality of the work pass holder.
Upon arrival in Singapore, all work pass holders with travel history to mainland China within the last 14 days will be placed on mandatory 14-day LOA. Employers will have to arrange for suitable premises to house these returning employees for the duration of their LOA.
In addition, the Singapore Government is working in close cooperation with our foreign counterparts. We have been actively sharing information with our foreign counterparts on Singapore's measures to manage COVID-2019. The international community, businesses and visitors, can be confident in Singapore's commitment to share information openly and swiftly, to protect public health and maintain safety and stability. Singapore has been cited as a positive model in respect of our transparency and response to the COVID-2019 outbreak. In particular, the World Health Organization highlighted the strength of Singapore's response, noting that even before the first case in Singapore was detected, preparedness activities were already underway to rapidly detect and respond to the virus.
We advise members of the public to not speculate and/or spread unfounded rumors. Please visit www.moh.gov.sg for updates on the COVID-19 situation.