Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

MP Murali Pillai defends organisers’ decision to hold dinner for seniors, says precautions were in place

SINGAPORE — Bukit Batok Member of Parliament (MP) Murali Pillai said precautions were in place at a dinner for seniors last weekend, after opposition politician Chee Soon Juan criticised the event as a potential flashpoint for the spread of Covid-19.

MP Murali Pillai defends organisers’ decision to hold dinner for seniors, says precautions were in place

Mr Murali Pillai (centre) said he had been briefed on the precautions the organisers would be taking ahead of the dinner, which was held at the Bukit Batok Community Club on March 7.

SINGAPORE — Bukit Batok Member of Parliament (MP) Murali Pillai said precautions were in place at a dinner for seniors last weekend, after opposition politician Chee Soon Juan criticised the event as a potential flashpoint for the spread of Covid-19.

Saying that he “welcomes the scrutiny”, Mr Murali told TODAY on Sunday night (March 15) that it was useful to understand the circumstances at that point in judging whether it was reasonable for the Bukit Batok Active Ageing Club to have gone ahead with the dinner.

The March 7 dinner, which was to celebrate the club’s eighth anniversary, came before the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced a suspension of all senior-centric activities run by government agencies for 14 days from March 11. It also came before the Government’s call on March 13 to cancel or defer ticketed events attended by more than 250 people.

“In reviewing the reasonableness of Active Ageing Club’s decision to proceed with the scaled-down dinner, it would be unfair to take into account facts that happened subsequently, as these matters would not be within their knowledge at that material time,” Mr Murali wrote on Facebook on Sunday evening.

In a Facebook post earlier in the day, Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee — who lost the Bukit Batok seat to Mr Murali in a by-election in 2016 — asked why Mr Murali allowed a hall of seniors to gather when the spread of Covid-19 was “at its most critical”.

He noted that based on photos of the dinner, participants were seated close to one another and “not practising social distancing” — a public health practice that seeks to limit contact between people who are well and those who are sick.

“Mr Murali apparently learnt nothing from the surge of new infections coming from people who attended the dinner function at Safra Jurong in February,” Dr Chee said, referring to a private dinner at a restaurant in the club on Feb 15 that has become the largest cluster of Covid-19 infections in Singapore.

Dr Chee said that Mr Murali, as the MP and leader of the community, should have advised the organisers to cancel the event. “If an outbreak were to occur as a result of this occasion, all the residents at Bukit Batok, and beyond, would be put at risk,” he said.

PRECAUTIONS IN PLACE

Speaking to TODAY over the phone on Sunday night, Mr Murali said he had talked to Mr Ong Chai, chairman of the Bukit Batok Active Ageing Committee, on the afternoon of March 7, before the dinner started at about 7pm at the Bukit Batok Community Club.

He had asked Mr Ong about the precautions in place and how the emergence of the Safra Jurong cluster would affect the organiser’s decision to hold the dinner, which was attended by more than 300 people.

Mr Ong had asked anyone who had gone to the Safra Jurong dinner to excuse themselves, and had also shortened the event. It ended at 9pm instead of 10.30pm, said Mr Murali, who attended the dinner as adviser to the Bukit Batok Grassroots Organisations.

The club is housed within the grassroots organisations.

“I understood why he proceeded with it in the scaled-down way that he mentioned,” said Mr Murali.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Mr Ong outlined the precautions that were in place at the dinner.

These included mandatory temperature checks for all participants, as well as travel and health advisories. The organisers also kept a lookout for those who were unwell to advise them to see a doctor and rest at home.

The organisers went further to extend the tables beyond the original dining area to the courtyard to create more space between groups. There were serving spoons for each dish and volunteers to do the serving for each table, instead of communal sharing with the participants using their own utensils, said Mr Ong.

He added that the organisers understood seniors were more vulnerable to Covid-19. “In line with the MOH’s announcement… to reduce transmission to seniors, the People’s Association had also announced… that all senior-centric activities would be suspended for 14 days (from March 11),” Mr Ong wrote.

“Bukit Batok Active Ageing Club has since stopped all the activities.”

Mr Murali said the event was ultimately the result of a group of dedicated residents coming together to organise a dinner for the seniors.

“They tried their very best to balance the competing interests of maintaining safety and good health for our seniors… and also ensuring that they have an active social life,” he said.

“So, I do appreciate their decision and that is why I thank them for it.”

Related topics

Covid-19 coronavirus Bukit Batok Murali Pillai Chee Soon Juan

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.

Aa