Ho Ching explains S'pore's humane approach to quarantining Covid-19 patients

Loopholes need to be closed first.

Belmont Lay | February 21, 2020, 06:40 PM

Ho Ching, CEO of Temasek Holdings, has explained how Singapore takes a humane approach to the quarantining of individuals.

She also expounded on what it means when it has been said that Singapore has been closing loopholes in laws and regulations since SARS in 2003 to become more prepared in dealing with an epidemic or pandemic.

In a Facebook post on Feb. 21, Ho wrote that Singapore's overall health threat response is calibrated depending on the DORSCON code.

From instituting testing to enforcing quarantines, these methods of dealing with a virus in Singapore is to primarily minimise transmissions.

Law has a role to play

She also compared the United Kingdom and South Korea with Singapore, to show how the law has a role to play, but would need time to be crafted and put in place for authorities to have the power to compel individuals to take certain actions.

She wrote that the U.K. recently passed a law for quarantine enforcement, after one quarantine case decided to walk out of a facility he didn’t like to stay in.

Ho also wrote that South Korea doesn’t have the relevant laws to compel testing and quarantine, which could be why the transmission of the virus is still ongoing.

Ho then wrote that the SARS experience allowed Singapore to proceed with safeguards in the event of a future outbreak, and this current Covid-19 virus episode would no doubt throw up other issues that will be addressed moving forward.

This is Ho's post in full:

Do you know?

Unlike bacteria, viruses need a living carrier to propagate?

In SG, we have the Infectious Disease Act, which allows the health and public security authorities, firstly to compel testing if there is suspicion of a serious or highly infectious disease, and secondly to enforce quarantine, whether in the form of a soft Leave Of Absence, a stricter Stay Home Notice, or go to a designated govt quarantine, from dorms to chalets.

This doesn’t mean the health or public security authorities can simply compel at any time - “No anyhow sukak sukak luan lai test, ok?”

Our overall response is calibrated to a formal declaration of DORSCON colour code, so that as the colour code deepens, the level of powers to the relevant authorities increases.

In this way, we can minimise transmission from a carrier or suspected carrier or close contacts of carriers or suspected carriers.

We do so in practical and humane ways, that range from free medical care for the confirmed carriers, to daily financial support of S$100 per day, to those under different levels of quarantine, either self employed or their employers.

Apparently, UK just passed a similar law recently, for quarantine enforcement, after one quarantine case decided to walk out of a quarantine just bcos he didn’t like to stay in that quarantine.

It looks like Korea also doesn’t have the relevant laws to compel testing and quarantine.

This is one example of what SG means when we say we have been preparing for a potential pandemic outbreak since SARS.

I’m sure COVID-19 will have more learning lessons for us to improve where we can spot weaknesses or loopholes, so that step by step we can be better prepared to prevent a disease X from ravaging our people.

And even if we cannot eventually stop a global pandemic, we would surely know we would have done our damnest to be one of the strongest defences in the world, within our means, resources , science and knowledge.