CNA, TOC, New Naratif & NUSS issued POFMA Correction Direction over statements by SDP's Paul Tambyah

Tambyah's statements pertained to MOM's handling of testing for Covid-19 among migrant workers.

Matthias Ang | July 05, 2020, 10:46 PM

Three media outlets — CNA, The Online Citizen, New Naratif -- as well as the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) have been issued Correction Directions under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act (POFMA).

According to a joint press release by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Manpower (MOM), CNA, New Naratif and NUSS each received one Correction Direction, while TOC received two.

All of the Correction Directions issued pertained to statements that Paul Tambyah, a candidate for the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), had made.

Made statements pertaining to MOM's handling of testing for Covid-19 among migrant workers

The press release further explained that Tambyah had made statements that were "false" across the following platforms:

The statements were:

  • That MOM's email advisory to employers on testing of migrant workers was made without the advice from public health medical professionals,
  • That the advisory also stated that employers would lose their work pass privileges if they brought their workers for Covid-19 testing, and
  • That MOM actively discouraged the testing of workers.

Both ministries clarified that MOM had neither said that employers could not bring their workers for testing nor actively discouraged the testing of workers.

Rather, what MOM had stated in the advisory was:

"Do not send workers to hospitals unless it is a medical emergency. If the worker is unwell, employers should send him to a general practitioner to seek medical attention, who will make a proper assessment on whether the worker needs to be sent to the hospital.”

This means that all four entities must publish a correction notice and provide access to the correct facts.

This does not mean that they have to take down their posts or edit their contents, however.

Advisory was issued after CGH told MOM an employer was sending all workers for Covid-19 testing

As for the context to the advisory, the press statement explained that this had been done after Changi General Hospital (CGH) informed MOH on Feb. 8 that an employer in the construction industry was sending all of his workers to the A&E Department to be tested for Covid-19.

This was despite the fact that the workers exhibited no symptoms and were well.

In addition, the employer had also requested for memos from the hospital to certify that the workers were not infected with Covid-19 and were fit to work.

This gave rise to the hospital's concern that such a move would trigger a flood of healthy workers being sent to the A&E department, thereby distracting the hospital from the care and treatment of ill patients who required their attention.

A joint advisory was issued on Feb. 12 by MOH, MOM and other agencies, stating that there was no need to prevent workers who were residing in the dormitory from working if they were well.

Another joint advisory was then sent out on Feb. 19, to tell employers not to send workers who were healthy for testing, so as to ensure that medical facilities and resources were focused on unwell individuals who needed medical treatment.

This was after MOH had been informed by hospitals that employers were still sending healthy workers for testing.

The press release further elaborated that the advisory on Feb. 19 had been "based on the prevailing scientific evidence at that time and was also in line with MOH’s risk- based approach to prioritise testing and care for those who were of high risk."

Top image screenshot from NUSS YouTube