SINGAPORE – As a small country that is not resource-rich, Singapore can not afford to close its borders for long, Education Minister Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday (May 4th).
Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministerial task force at Covid-19, was explaining why Singapore did not close its border with India earlier given the raging explosion there.
“We are small. We need migrant workers to build our homes,” he told a task force conference. Foreign workers are also needed for a range of other essential services, including caring for the elderly.
“It’s really very difficult for us to close the borders forever,” he said. “Instead, we have always taken a risk-based approach to managing our borders from the beginning.”
This includes checking the number of arrivals. He said the total number coming in was declining, even before restrictions on arrivals from India began.
He added: “We have already become very close, to the point that the large number of applications has increased. Many projects have suffered from delays, as we all know.
“Recently when we have limited the influx of workers from India and the entire South Indiana continent it means that significant delays will be added to all of our projects.
“Some of our housing projects can now be delayed by up to a year or more. So there is a significant cost to Singaporeans.”
Moreover, Mr Wong said, the migrant workers coming in are isolated and “we have been strengthening that regime progressively in recent months”.
They are also tested more regularly.
Despite all the measures, Mr. Wong said there will be leaks in the community from time to time. This could happen even in a country like China with its very tight border measures, he added.
So there can be no single support for border measures, he said.
“We need to use the other tools at our disposal,” he said. “If we do all this well, then we can control the spread of infection in our community.”
As for visitors who have been negative but later positive when they want to leave the country, Mr Wong said there are two possibilities.
One is that they could have been infected in the community while in Singapore. The other is that it is an older infection and they are “permanent sheds” of virus particles. If so, they are less likely to be infectious.
READ NEXT: 5-person limit for social gatherings, gyms close: What you need to know about Singapore’s new Covid-19 measures
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