Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat retorted that he is not a doctor in a parliamentary exchange with Workers’ Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh when he was asked to explain the reasons why the Government flip-flopped on its policy on face shields.
Earlier, the Government said that people can wear either face masks or face shields when they leave their house since this gives adequate protection against COVID-19. At least one ruling party politician was also spotted wearing a face shield without a mask and distributing face shields to market stallholders.
On 1 June, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that the multi-ministry taskforce (MTF) for COVID-19 has reviewed this policy and decided that face shields cannot be worn in lieu of masks since they are not as effective as masks in reducing the risk of virus transmission.
Indicating that a COVID-positive patient could more easily spread the infection to others if he was wearing a face shield, compared to a face mask, Mr Gan said that face masks should be the default option for Singaporeans when they are out and about.
Pritam Singh, the leader of Singapore’s opposition, raised questions about why the Government flip-flopped on its stance on face shields, in Parliament.
Mr Pritam questioned how the original decision to allow face shields was made and what changed for the Government to make a U-turn and disallow face shields for most residents. He asked the Government to explain how information on face shields had changed from the perspective of the medical professionals the Government had access to, and what were the reasons offered by those experts for that U-turn.
Chee Hong Tat stepped up to respond but perhaps did not understand what information Mr Pritam sought. Seeming to think that Mr Pritam asked who gave the advice that formed the basis behind the Government’s contradictory policies on face shields, Mr Chee replied:
“I think the MTF has explained why there was a change in the advisory on the use of face shields. This is, as Mr Singh himself alluded to, based on the advice from medical professionals.”
Mr Pritam took the microphone to clarify that he had not asked who gave the advice but had asked what advice was given initially and how this advice changed. He asked Mr Chee again: “I understand that, SMS. Can I ask what were the reasons given by those experts that changed?”
With a smile, Mr Chee threw his hands out and said: “Mr Speaker, I’m not a doctor. So, I am not equipped to provide the medical reasons to answer Mr Singh’s question in detail-“
As Mr Chee returned to the podium, Gan Kim Yong raised his hand to speak while Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong tried to get Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin’s attention. Mr Tan cut Mr Chee off midway and asked Mr Gan whether he would like to elaborate.
Before he handed the podium over to Mr Gan, Mr Chee said: “-But I think the MTF and the medical professionals have provided their explanation. It is about safety. It is about protecting everybody’s health and safety.”
It is unclear whether Mr Chee didn’t understand Mr Pritam’s question or whether he did not know the answer to Mr Pritam’s question. Watch the exchange from the 0:00 mark to the 1:43 mark here:
Responding to the Government’s explanation on the public communications on face masks/face shields, Pritam Singh noted the decision made earlier in the week to stop the usage of face shields (with exceptions for certain groups of individuals or settings). He queried how that decision was originally taken to allow for face shields and then the U-turn disallowing face shields except for those certain groups or settings. He asked how the information had changed from the perspective of the health experts the Government had access to, and what were the reasons offered by those experts for that U-turn.Watch Chee Hong Tat and Gan Kim Yong reply below. (5 June 2020)Vid Credit: CNA
Posted by The Workers' Party on Thursday, June 11, 2020