Lawrence Wong Says Singapore Can’t Afford To Shut Its Borders For A Long Time Due To Lack Of Resources

Even with border restrictions tightening, Education Minister Lawrence Wong has reiterated that Singapore cannot afford to close its borders for a long duration.

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The country needs its migrant workers for a wide range of essential services, from building homes to cleaning, and even caring for senior citizens.

He stressed that these measures are based on the management of risks, a stance that has always been upheld during this pandemic.

Singapore needs migrant workers for essential services

During the Multi-Ministry Taskforce press conference on Tuesday (4 May), a Lianhe Wanbao reporter had asked that the ministers give a review on whether Singapore’s borders could have been closed sooner.

He cited that some Tan Tock Seng Hospital cluster cases carried the Covid-19 variant from India. Furthermore, numerous confirmed local cases who returned to Singapore early in the year, had only tested positive before departure.

To this, Minister Lawrence Wong stressed that we should look at the broader picture.

“Unlike some resource-rich countries that can shut their borders for a long time, Singapore cannot afford to do so, certainly not for a prolonged duration of time.”

We are small. We do not have sufficient resources. We need migrant workers to build our homes.

He stressed that the country depends on migrant workers for a wide range of essential services, from building homes to cleaning, and even caring for senior citizens.

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Hence, it’s difficult for Singapore to close its borders permanently.

Risk-based approach opposed to permanent border closure

Despite the obvious risks involved with allowing people into the country, this risk has been considered and duly managed.

Explaining the steps the country has taken to combat this, Minister Wong said there has always been a tight control of inflows to Singapore.

So much so that it has impacted us locally, with many projects experiencing delays due to this.

And with the recent latest round of border restrictions on arrivals from the Indian sub-continent, many of Singapore’s housing projects are expected to be delayed by a year or more.

Beyond that, Mr Wong stresses that the Stay-Home Notice (SHN) regime has progressively tightened even before recent events. E.g., they extended the SHN from 14 to 21 days.

Lastly, there is a prioritisation of vaccination for officers working at borders and checkpoints to minimise the risk of transmission into the community.

Country also needs to step up testing & safe management practices

With this in mind, Minister Wong acknowledged that they will always be running the risk of having leaks into the community.

A proposition that has happened in other countries like China, he highlighted.

He concludes by saying that the country cannot solely rely on border restrictions. Instead, we should capitalise on other tools such as testing, tracing, safe management practices, and vaccination.

We have to make use of other tools at our disposal. If we do all of these well, then we can control the spread of the infection in our community.

Both border & community safety measures are equally important

Singapore has long had a history with resource management. Being the small nation we are, we have found clever solutions to deal with these issues.

Hopefully, we can strike a fine balance between managing the pandemic outbreak and our resources so we can come out of this in a good position for the future.

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Featured image adapted from Unsplash.