Good public health reasons for differentiated treatment between vaccinated & those who are not: Ong Ye Kung

There are exemptions for children and those with a negative PET result.

Syahindah Ishak | July 26, 2021, 10:39 PM

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Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in Parliament on Monday (July 26) that there are "good public health reasons" for the differentiation between those who are vaccinated and those who aren't, during the transition period as vaccination rates inch upwards.

He also clarified that the differentiated treatment will apply as Singapore transitions to treating Covid-19 as an endemic.

Difference in treatment for those vaccinated and unvaccinated

Ong made these clarifications after Member of Parliament (MP) Nadia Samdin brought up the issue of "discrimination", in her words, and differences in treatment between those who have been vaccinated and those who are unable to or do not wish to be vaccinated.

Previously, finance minister Lawrence Wong had laid out some rules based on vaccination status, such as those who wish to gym or dine in at a restaurant need to be fully vaccinated.

Nadia said:

"On one hand, I empathise and hear the calls of those saying, 'What is the point of being vaccinated if I'm still faced with certain restrictions?' or 'Why are we being penalised?'.

But at the same time, I know full well the impact of some of those who are unvaccinated for various medical reasons, in particular our seniors, and the social impact of the isolation, [of] not being able to be involved in activities."

Nadia then asked if the Ministry of Health (MOH) considered amending the TraceTogether app to show those who are vaccinated, and those who aren't or cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

"Good public health reasons" for differentiation

In response to Nadia's questions, Ong said that he wouldn't call it "discrimination", but "differentiation instead.

He said there are "good public health reasons" for the differentiation between those who are vaccinated and not vaccinated. He explained that this differentiation helps to "protect those who are not vaccinated".

With regards to amending the TraceTogether app, Ong said that the app already states an individual's vaccination status.

"Mine does, it says I'm vaccinated, you can check yours," Ong added.

Ong also addressed Nadia's concerns on individuals who cannot be vaccinated, and feel left out from social activities.

He said that previously, when MOH announced that vaccinated individuals can gather in groups of five, there were some exemptions.

If someone is unvaccinated but wants to join the group, they could do so if they had a valid negative pre-event test (PET) result in the past 24 hours. Children aged 12 and below were also exempted.

Ong said that MOH will "take into account these provisions" when it does its midterm review.

He added:

"When we get to a very high level of vaccination rate, there should be very little differentiation between vaccinated and unvaccinated [individuals] because collectively, we will be very resilient. By then, there will probably be justification for lesser differentiation."

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