International COVID 19 Calvin Cheng argues with Ho Ching about reporting unlinked Covid cases, later...

Calvin Cheng argues with Ho Ching about reporting unlinked Covid cases, later cites Dr Paul Tambyah to prove his point

“The total number of unlinked cases tells us nothing if we are no longer pursuing a Covid-zero policy.”

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Singapore — After the Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday that it would no longer report the number of linked and unlinked Covid-19 cases as this is “no longer as relevant as before,” Madam Ho Ching voiced another opinion.

In a Sept 9 Facebook post, the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and outgoing CEO of Temasek Holdings wrote that “unlinked cases are still relevant for the purpose of getting a sense whether we are having a runaway gallop or a steady trot.”

This sparked a lengthy online debate with former Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng commenting that he dissented with Mdm Ho’s point of view.

This is an interesting departure for Mr Cheng. Furthermore, in a comment on the mothership.sg Facebook page on Sept 9, the former NMP wrote that he thinks reporting daily cases should stop altogether. He even quoted the professor of infectious diseases and opposition leader Dr Paul Tambyah to prove his point.

Mdm Ho had written in her post, “We should still provide daily case breakdown between linked and unlinked, and between quarantined linked and unquarantined linked. 

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This gives us a sense of the pipeline of potential new cases ahead, and whether our contact tracing is keeping up. 

We need to keep these signals alive until about end of the year.”

She later clarified that the issue is not “linked vs unlinked,” and apologised for not having been clearer. “We need to know what new nodes are surfacing in the community, bcos these are the ones which can continue to cause ripples of more infection,” she added.

The majority of commenters agreed with Mdm Ho on the relevance of reporting unlinked cases, but Mr Cheng did not.

“The total number of unlinked cases tells us nothing, if we are no longer pursuing a Covid-zero policy… If we are pursuing an endemic policy, the number of unlinked cases is merely a subset of the total number of cases. It doesn’t provide any further illumination anymore,” he wrote in a comment on her post.

 

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“While we are living with Covid, it doesn’t mean we should leave it to burn out of control. It means we drive carefully towards relaxing the restrictions but be ready to tap the brakes if the speed is too fast, and we run the risk of numbers shooting up to overwhelm our care system,” Mdm Ho answered.

Later she added a comment saying “we need to read the relevant signals.”

The former NMP countered this by writing that both linked and unlinked cases are nodes of community transmission, but added that the “total number of unlinked cases is a pointless piece of information to the public, if our aim isn’t to stub out every case.”

He later added in another comment that Singapore will have to “pick and choose which measures would be the least disruptive to the economy and daily lives.

Linking every case and then quarantining the entire web of linkages, especially when cases are growing, is extremely disruptive.”

On Friday morning, Mr Cheng commented on the Facebook page of mothership.sg, on a post linking to an article entitled, “S’pore reports 57th Covid-19 death, 457 new cases.”

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I think we should stop reporting daily cases. Quite a few Singaporeans can’t process these numbers mentally. And then they start to panic,” he wrote, adding that “the number of cases are only relevant insofar if they are severe or results in death.”

He noted that unlinked cases will no longer be reported, as MOH announced. 

“Experts including Paul Tambyah have backed the MOH up on this decision,” he added.

Dr Tambyah, the chairman of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has talked about living with the virus, which he explained entails accepting that the virus has become endemic, meaning that it’s everywhere.

He also said he was heartened when, the ministerial taskforce argued in a Straits Times editorial that the country should “aim to live with the virus, identify the vulnerable, ramp up the vaccination rates, and try to get on with life as much as possible.” /TISG

Read related: Unlinked Covid-19 cases are still relevant: Ho Ching contradicts MOH decision

Unlinked Covid-19 cases are still relevant: Ho Ching contradicts MOH decision

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