National Development Minister Lawrence Wong called crowded MRT trains “transient risks” for COVID-19, in response to questions about the Government’s seemingly contradictory regulations to battle the spread of coronavirus.
Singapore exited a two-month long lockdown-style ‘circuit breaker’ last week but residents are still not allowed to meet with most of their relatives or friends. The country is opening up slowly and social gatherings are not permitted in the first phase of the reopening.
Some members of the public have asked why they are not allowed to meet their relatives or friends while the trains are allowed to get crowded. While the Government put up safe distancing stickers and urged commuters to maintain social distance in the trains, the Ministry of Health removed the stickers when the circuit breaker lifted.
During a virtual press meet on Monday (8 June), Mr Wong asked members of the public to understand the spirit of COVID-19 regulations, in response to questions like why the MRT trains are allowed to be so crowded while people are not allowed to have social gatherings.
Mr Wong, who is the co-chair of the Government’s multi-ministry COVID-19 taskforce, explained that the Government is taking other precautions like stepping up cleaning, making masks mandatory and asking commuters not to talk on trains since it will be difficult to maintain physical distance on public transport.
Asserting that current precautions minimise the risk of virus transmission on trains, the ruling party politician went on to qualify public transport journeys as “transient risks” for COVID-19 since they are generally not long.
Social interactions, however, “are of a different magnitude of risk all together,” according to the Minister. Explaining why the Government implements strict restrictions on gatherings, Mr Wong said:
“When we gather together, whether to talk, to interact, to have a meal together, the risks are much higher, and the evidence we have for cases in Singapore and also the evidence around the world, shows that the vast majority of cases are typically spread by these few events that involve social interactions and gatherings.”
Asserting that restrictions need to continue being strict to curb the spread of COVID-19, even while the Government wants residents to resume work and school, Mr Wong added:
“We appeal to everyone in Singapore that our mindset should not be to exploit each and every rule to the fullest possible degree, but really to understand the spirit of the regulations and to continue to uphold the precautions.”