Singapore—Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister, was interviewed on CNBC Asia’s Squawk Box Asia on December 17 to further discuss Singapore’s plans for the Covid-19 vaccine, including giving migrant workers the same access to it.
Last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in a public address (Dec 14) that the country would be entering Phase 3 of reopening, with more restrictions lifted, on Dec 28. Furthermore, he added that the first shipment of the vaccine would be coming by the end of this month and that it would be free for Singaporeans and long-term residents, although it would not be made mandatory.
A few days later, on International Migrants’ Day (Dec 18), PM Lee wrote in a Facebook post that the vaccine will also be offered to migrant workers, adding that more details on how this would be carried out would be available later on.
In his CNBC interview, Dr Balakrishnan also said the vaccine would be free for migrant workers, and reminded viewers of promises that PM Lee has made.
“If I was to rewind time, our Prime Minister, I think, still remains the only leader in the world, who made that assurance that we would treat migrant workers exactly the same as we would citizens, in terms of access to health care, in terms of protection. First point.
Second point, from a professional and medical perspective, a human being living in Singapore is a human being equally at risk of either getting infected or infecting others. So this is the reason why we do not discriminate on the basis of nationality, for all people domiciled, living, working, in Singapore.”
The Foreign Affairs Minister also said that the priority for giving out the vaccine would be on “the basis of risk and need” but that the migrant workers would be cared for “to the best of our ability.”
When one of the interviewers, Sri Jegarajah, said that this was “encouraging news” for the migrant worker community, Dr Balakrishnan said, “It must be so. They work so hard, they sacrifice so much for their families back home. This is humanity. This is common sense. This is public health.”
As for getting vaccinated, the minister repeated PM Lee’s assertion from last week that the Cabinet “would lead by example” in getting vaccinated.
He also expressed that it was fortunate that the “anti-vaxxer” movement is less active in Singapore than in different parts of the world.
“One of our key advantages is that we have got a scientific, enlightened and rational approach to issues in Singapore. We do not politicise these matters. We want to keep an open mind, we want to maintain a transparent approach. We want to make sure that everyone who participates in this does so voluntarily, (with) informed consent, (and) understands the risk and the benefits.” —/TISG