Govt to publicly share findings of review on S'pore's response to Covid-19: Lawrence Wong

Work on the review has already begun, Wong said.

Low Jia Ying | May 09, 2022, 07:44 PM

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The Singapore government is conducting an after-action review (AAR) on the first phase of Singapore's response to the Covid-19 pandemic and will share the results of the review publicly, Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong said in Parliament today (May 9).

The first phase refers to the start of the outbreak till August last year, when the government was focused on containing the spread of Covid-19.

Wong was answering a Parliamentary Question filed by Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh on what the format of the AAR would be, and whether its findings will be shared with the public.

Senior civil servant Peter Ho overseeing review

Answering the question on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Wong said that work on the AAR has already begun.

He added that the former head of civil service, Peter Ho, has agreed to help the government oversee the review.

The government's plans to conduct an AAR on Singapore's Covid-19 response was announced by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean in July last year, after Singh asked if the government was planning to conduct a Committee of Inquiry (COI) to look into Singapore's Covid-19 response.

Wong said that now that the Covid-19 situation in Singapore has "improved", the government has started work on the AAR focusing on the first phase of Singapore's experience with Covid-19.

Wong characterised Singapore's experience with Covid-19 into two phases. The first phase was defined as the start of the outbreak until August last year, when Singapore was focused on containing the spread of the virus.

The second phase was when Singapore started to live with the virus, after a high proportion of the Singapore population had been vaccinated.

"The AAR is intended as a broad-ranging exercise to thoroughly analyse our experiences and review the lessons learned so that we can be better prepared for the next pandemic," said Wong.

Wong added that the "findings and lessons" will be shared with the public after the AAR is completed.

Pritam Singh: Public has limited knowledge of shortcomings and lessons learnt during Covid-19

In a Supplementary Question, Singh said that the public has "limited to an unknown perspective on the shortcomings or lessons that were paid for dearly in Covid-19".

He said that the public also did not know how the country can be better prepared both "physically and psychologically" for when the next pandemic hits Singapore.

He then asked Wong how many participants are envisaged to participate in the AAR, whether the AAR will be a whole-of-government exercise, whether the review will include emergency preparedness scenarios and if Singapore will build up indigenous manufacturing capabilities in critical areas.

In response, Wong confirmed that the AAR is a whole-of-government endeavour.

He added that Ho has been given access to "all information with regard to the government's response".

Wong said that Ho will conduct a "thorough exercise" in reviewing the government's response, so that it can learn "thoroughly and rigorously from what we have experienced so far" in time for the next pandemic that Singapore will face.

Wong also said the lessons the government intends to learn will be "wide-ranging" and will include how Singapore can improve its supply chains and its national resiliency.

Leong Mun Wai: Will the AAR include a detailed assessment of the S$100 billion spent?

Progress Singapore Party (PSP) Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai asked Wong whether the AAR will include a "detailed assessment" of the nearly S$100 billion expenditure on Covid-19.

Wong said that while the AAR is broad-ranging, its focus will be on "issues of strategic and national importance".

Wong said Leong's question was more on the "accountability with regard to money spent", which he said was an important issue, though it was "slightly different" from what the AAR is focused on.

He added that the Ministry of Finance would be "happy" to take the issue up.

"We do that with regard to all areas of spending and where relevant, we will put out information on how the monies are spent. But let the AAR focus on the more strategic and important issues that will enable us to be better prepared for the next pandemic," Wong said.

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Top photo via CNA