Singapore plans to make IDA less blunt, says Health Minister

Singapore plans to make IDA less blunt, says Health Minister

SINGAPORE: Singapore plans to make its Infectious Diseases Act IDA less blunt to deal with a wider range of scenarios, said On Tuesday by Health Minister Ong Ye Kung. The legislation, which empowers the Ministry of Health MOH to take various public health actions for disease outbreaks, currently envisages only two states of public health with no gradations in between: Peacetime or emergency.

Under proposed plans, the amended IDA will have four public health situational tiers, replacing the current Disease Outbreak Response System Condition or DORSCON color-coded framework.

The four tiers are

On the second day of the debate on a COVID 19 White Paper, Mr Ong said that the legislation should be reviewed and amended to be more future proof. It is more intuitive to tell the public that there is an outbreak, a threat or emergency. The law spells out what measures could take place under each state, he said.

He said emergency powers under the IDA were too blunt and heavy compared to the public health measures and safe management measures needed at the time.

COVID 19 was a crisis and a serious threat, but we did not declare a public health emergency, he said.

We wanted to restrict group sizes, but not to control movement of people. We were not planning to impose curfews or invoke the Requisition of Resources Act to marshal resources. An ad-hoc legislation, which was recently extended for another year, was enacted to provide temporary complementary powers to the IDA.

He said that this allowed authorities to deploy a wide range of tools to tackle COVID- 19 at multiple layers, without declaring a public health emergency.

He said that the amendments to the IDA will be introduced in Parliament later this year and authorities can and intend to rescind these temporary control orders once passed.

Will this prevent the panic buying that we saw on COVID 19 when we declared DORSCON Yellow and Orange? He said it was not on its own.

If people panic during a crisis, it depends on how much information they are getting, and whether they know what to do to protect themselves and contribute to societal resilience. If people listen to rumours, they are likely to rush to the supermarkets and stock up on toilet paper and instant noodles, according to Ong.

But I believe that with the experience of SARS, H1 N 1 and now COVID 19 the government knows much better what measures are necessary and appropriate, and the people of Singapore understand much better what to do in a pandemic crisis.