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If supply of reliable Covid-19 vaccines dry up, it’s every country for itself: Calvin Cheng

Mr Cheng spoke about vaccine nationalism in a Facebook post on Jan 31

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Singapore – Former Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng, known for his pro-Government views, has taken to social media to highlight the harsh truth that “Singapore is not a very important country” when it comes to Covid-19 vaccine prioritisation.

“As supply of reliable vaccines dries (sic) up, countries have resorted to vaccine nationalism,” said Mr Cheng in a Facebook post on Sunday (Jan 31). He was referring to the European Union imposing restrictions on the export of vaccines, accusing the United Kingdom of diverting vaccines made in the EU by British firm AstraZeneca to the UK.

“This is a repeat of what happened in Mar and Apr when personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, gowns were in short supply,” he said.

Mr Cheng recalled the “Americans were then guilty of hijacking supplies bound for the EU”. At the same time, Taiwan banned exports of masks and eventually locked down Singapore’s factory there, disrupting the latter’s own supply of masks.

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“In a crisis, all pretence of global cooperation goes out of the window,” said Mr Cheng. “It’s every country for itself.”

Providing a “harsh truth,” Mr Cheng noted that in such a situation, the rich and powerful will reap whilst the poor and weak will rot. “Singapore is wealthy, but we are not a very important country.”

“Good governance has allowed us to punch above our weight, but we are merely a young nation of five million people, with no natural resources that people want.”

Mr Cheng has highlighted Singapore’s “inability to keep pace with Israel,” noting the former is not as important nor influential as the latter.

Israel punches far above its weight globally, a rich nuclear-armed powerhouse with connections to an influential Jewish diaspora internationally, he said. Giving an example, Mr Cheng mentioned that the CEO of Pfizer, another forerunner in producing Covid-19 vaccines, is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors.

“We are not even as important as the oil-nations like the UAE (United Arab Emirates), who have also been supplied the better vaccine Sinopharm (not Sinovac) by China, as well as Pfizer. They are thus way ahead in their vaccination.”

To keep up with the world, Mr Cheng urged to continue holding Singapore to high standards. “We need good leaders and good governance. Most of all, we need people who understand that Singapore’s success so far is precarious.”

EU’s vaccine export controls criticised

On Sunday (Jan 31), a bbc.com report highlighted the criticisms towards the EU over vaccine export controls, including one by the World Health Organisation.

The EU introduced the controls amid an argument with vaccine manufacturers regarding delivery shortfalls. The scheme gives EU countries the power to deny authorisation for vaccine exports if the company making them has not honoured existing contracts with the EU, BBC noted.

“The protection and safety of our citizens is a priority and the challenges we now face left us with no choice but to act,” said the European Commission.

About 100 countries worldwide will be affected by the controls, including the UK, US, Canada and Australia, although poorer nations are exempt. The scheme is also temporary and does not indicate an export ban, the EU added.

However, WHO vice-head Mariangela Simao said the move was a “very worrying trend,” a comment that followed WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ statement that “vaccine nationalism” could lead to a “protracted recovery.”/TISG

Read related: Calvin Cheng calls Govt’s pre-order of Sinovac vaccine “a failed gamble”

Calvin Cheng calls Govt’s pre-order of Sinovac vaccine “a failed gamble”

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