Govt will conduct after-action review instead of COI to look into Covid-19 response: Teo Chee Hean

Teo noted that some lessons had already been learnt without a COI or an after action review.

Matthias Ang | July 05, 2021, 06:21 PM

The government will establish a comprehensive after-action review (AAR) instead of a Commission of Inquiry (COI) to examine the country's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said in Parliament on June 5.

According to Teo, a COI, which is "a quasi-judicial investigative tribunal", is not the most appropriate way for learning lessons and improving Singapore's response to future pandemics.

Rather, a COI is best suited for a singular event that has occurred at a specific moment in time such as a major accident or building collapse, the Coordinating Minister for National Security elaborated.

Singh: Government mentioned a year ago that it would review the response

Teo's statement was given in response to a question by Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh, who asked if the government was committed to establishing a COI on the matter, and when such an inquiry might take place.

Singh further pointed to how the government had made the commitment 12 months ago to review Singapore's response to Covid-19 as the main impetus for his question.

In addition, there are countries such as the UK which has already given a report on their own handling of the pandemic, he added.

Teo: Some lessons from the pandemic have already been learned without any AAR/COI

On this matter, Teo noted that several lessons on the pandemic had already been learnt through "actual ground experience" as the Covid-19 virus and situation evolved, without an AAR or a COI.

Such lessons have encompassed areas such as Covid-19 testing, contact tracing, management of the dormitories, isolation procedures for foreign arrivals, and safe management measures, and have resulted in the country various agencies adjusting and adapting their responses to be more effective, he said.

Teo added:

"Right now, our agencies remain in the thick of battle. Their resources are totally committed; they are stretched dealing with the pandemic, which is far from over. Even as we fight the current battle, we are constantly evaluating, learning, innovating and building new capabilities and capacities to stay ahead of this fast moving virus."

Teo also emphasised that Singapore had not yet reached a "new normal" where the majority of the population has been vaccinated and the country is able to live with the virus endemic in the population, although the "light at the end of the tunnel" is visible.

As such, the full AAR will have to wait until the situation has stabilised and the country is out of the woods, he stated.

Teo also said that the government "have not determined the precise form in which such a review will take", but the government would certainly want to learn all the lessons that it has.

Pritam: What is the extent of the AAR's scope then?

This then brought up Singh's next question if the AAR could be as wide-ranging as a COI could be potentially be, given that the latter can also be involved in matters of public policy and multi-agency issues of public concern.

In response, Teo said that the AAR will likely be more "broad-ranging" than a COI, which is typically defined in a narrow manner.

The minister elaborated, "The government intends to do a very broad ranging AAR and on all aspects, because there are many aspects to this particular pandemic from which we can learn good lessons for the future."

Top collage screenshots from CNA