Singapore — The country’s Infectious Disease Act has been vital to its preparedness for pandemics, in contrast to South Korea, which has no “relevant laws to compel testing and quarantine”, according to Madam Ho Ching, wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and CEO of Temasek Holdings.
South Korea has had a big increase in the number of cases of Covid-19, the coronavirus which originated in Wuhan, a city in central China, and which is sweeping the globe. The disease has infected more than 75,000 people, with a death toll of over 2,200.
Madam Ho posted a link on Friday (Feb 21) to an article from goodyfeed.com entitled “South Korea Now Has Nearly as Many Covid-19 Cases as S’pore Due to a Church Cluster, Too.”
Do you know?Unlike bacteria, viruses need a living carrier to propagate?In SG, we have the Infectious Disease Act,…
The article states that in a span of two days, from Feb 18 to 20, the number of people in South Korea positive for Covid-19 jumped from 31 to 82, “largely due to a cluster of Covid-19 infections centred on a church in the South Korean city of Daegu”.
Thirty-nine of those cases are linked to a 61-year-old woman, a member of the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.
The woman developed a fever on Feb 10 but reportedly twice refused to be tested for the coronavirus because she had not recently travelled abroad. She then attended at least four church services before being diagnosed with the respiratory disease.
The church has since apologised for the spread of the virus and its 1,001 members in Daegu are now under self-quarantine. Ninety are showing symptoms of Covid-19.
Madam Ho points out that Singapore’s Infectious Disease Act, unlike in South Korea which has no such law, “allows the health and public security authorities, firstly to compel testing if there is suspicion of a serious or highly infectious disease, and secondly to enforce quarantine, whether in the form of a soft Leave Of Absence, a stricter Stay Home Notice, or go to a designated govt quarantine, from dorms to chalets”.
She added that this has meant minimising the spread of the disease from carriers and their close contacts, albeit done in “practical and humane ways”, including financial support for those under quarantine and medical care for those infected.
Madam Ho added: “Apparently, UK just passed a similar law recently, for quarantine enforcement, after one quarantine case decided to walk out of a quarantine just bcos he didn’t like to stay in that quarantine.
“It looks like Korea also doesn’t have the relevant laws to compel testing and quarantine.
“This is one example of what SG means when we say we have been preparing for a potential pandemic outbreak since SARS.
“I’m sure COVID-19 will have more learning lessons for us to improve where we can spot weaknesses or loopholes, so that step by step we can be better prepared to prevent a disease X from ravaging our people.
“And even if we cannot eventually stop a global pandemic, we would surely know we would have done our damnest to be one of the strongest defences in the world, within our means, resources , science and knowledge.”