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GE2020: PAP’s Lawrence Wong rebuts SDP chairman Paul Tambyah’s ‘baseless’ allegations on Govt’s handling of Covid-19

SINGAPORE — The People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Lawrence Wong on Sunday (July 5) rebutted allegations by Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Paul Tambyah that the Government did not rely on medical experts to combat Covid-19, describing the opposition leader’s remarks as “baseless and false”.

PAP's Lawrence Wong (right) said SDP’s Paul Tambyah had made "baseless and false" claims that the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force has not relied on medical experts’ advice.

PAP's Lawrence Wong (right) said SDP’s Paul Tambyah had made "baseless and false" claims that the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force has not relied on medical experts’ advice.

  • Mr Wong said Dr Tambyah had made "baseless and false" claims that the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force has not relied on medical experts’ advice
  • He added that Dr Tambyah, an infectious diseases expert, has also distorted facts about govt advisory discouraging employers from sending foreign workers to hospitals for testing 
  • Dr Tambyah had made the allegations during a livestream and had separately criticised Mr Wong’s handling of the crisis 

 

SINGAPORE — The People’s Action Party’s (PAP) Lawrence Wong on Sunday (July 5) rebutted allegations by Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Paul Tambyah that the Government did not rely on medical experts to combat Covid-19, describing the opposition leader’s remarks as “baseless and false”.  

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force leading Singapore’s Covid-19 response, pointed out that medical experts have always been an integral part of the task force’s deliberations, noting the fact that the Health Ministry’s director of medical services has been involved from the beginning.

“I fully respect Professor Tambyah as a leading expert in his field. It is very disappointing that he has deliberately chosen to distort the facts, just to try and score some political points,” said Mr Wong, who sits on the PAP’s central executive committee which is the party’s top decision-making body. 

Mr Wong, who is also helming the PAP’s team for Marsiling-Yew Tee Group Representation Constituency (GRC), was speaking to the media at the PAP’s Woodlands branch office. The PAP is contesting the GRC with a team from SDP. 

Dr Tambyah is a director in the division of infectious diseases at the National University Health System and the president-elect of the US-based International Society of Infectious Diseases. 

On July 2, he had alleged that the Government was handling the crisis against the advice of medical professionals during a livestream by sociopolitical site The Online Citizen Asia with historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin.

During the session, Dr Tambyah was asked by Dr Thum what he would do if he led Singapore through the crisis. 

Dr Tambyah replied that unlike during the Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) crisis where health experts led the national response, the multi-ministry task force — which consists of mainly political officeholders — is leading the response for Covid-19.

On the coronavirus outbreak in the workers’ dormitories, Dr Tambyah also noted that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in February had threatened foreign worker employers — should they ferry their foreign workers to the hospitals for testing, they could lose their work permit privileges.

Dr Tambyah also alleged that this went against the advice of the public health community, and the Health Ministry was “blindsided” by MOM’s advisory.

On Sunday, Mr Wong said Dr Tambyah was spreading false allegations about the work of the multi-ministry task force and was undermining the work of frontline healthcare workers.

Mr Wong said on the MOM advisory: “It was not MOM that unilaterally issued the advisory, it was the doctors and medical experts that had requested MOM to put out that advisory to the employers.”

The advisory was issued after a small cluster of foreign workers at Seletar Aerospace Park had been infected with the disease. Employers had, at the time, ferried their workers to accident and emergency departments so that doctors could issue certificates to “clear” them of the disease.

“The doctors themselves say that it's not possible for them to issue such a memo certifying that the workers are free from infection and are fit for work. That's why the Health Ministry, the director of medical services, the medical professionals felt that this needed to be clarified and they asked MOM to put out the advisory.,” said Mr Wong.

The right process would have been to send workers who were unwell to clinics or the general practitioner, so that a doctor can assess whether the foreign worker should be tested for Covid-19, he added.

Apart from the livestream with Dr Thum, Dr Tambyah had on separate occasions accused the PAP Government for losing focus on pandemic handling since it was thinking about a General Election in March. 

Dr Tambyah, who is standing in Bukit Panjang Single Member Constituency, had also taken aim at Mr Wong’s campaigning during the crisis, instead of monitoring the recent Covid-19 cluster at a public housing block in Tampines, as well as the rising infection figures since the start of the election cycle.

In response, Mr Wong emphasised that the work of the task force has never stopped.

“We continue to meet. We continue to monitor reports every day… Whatever spare time on top of that work, that's where I go in to the ground, meet my residents,” he said. 

The multi-ministry task force has also been upfront that it expected infection figures to rise following the relaxation of strict control measures when Singapore entered Phase Two, regardless of whether an election was ongoing.

Mr Wong said: “I have fully expected and prepared for the SDP to do this, but I have expected better of professor Paul Tambyah. He claims the multi-ministry task force is distracted. But it seems that he is the one who is politicking and undermining the work of everyone in the frontlines now.”

Responding to another question on the SDP’s claim that the PAP has set a 10 million population target, Mr Wong reiterated that the facts that have been put out by the PAP speak for themselves.

He added: “I think what is disappointing — based on the debate over the population figure, and now having to deal with this other false allegation on the work of the multi-ministry task force — is that we are dealing with a very serious campaign, a very important election where our lives, our jobs our future are at stake.

“And yet we are unable to have a campaign focusing on facts and focusing on the core issues, but having to deal with false allegations, time and again, from the SDP in particular.”

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SGVotes2020 Singapore General Election Lawrence Wong Paul Tambyah PAP Covid-19 coronavirus

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