Now is not the time for self-praise

Mellanie Hewlitt
Singapore Review
19 April 2003

The SARS outbreak has forced everyone to re-examine priorities, invoking a paradigm shift for most people.

But it seems that there remain isolated pockets of state administration in Singapore which continue to defy this trend.

Whilst it is granted that Singapore has implemented an effective and transparent system in managing and containing the SARs outbreak, this has not been 100% effective and much refinement is still needed in the area of policy implementation.

One example is the exact parameters for imposing quaranntine measures. A friend of mine just lamented how mindless it was for TTSH to impose a quanrantine only for the suspected carrier (in this case the father) whilst the rest of the family continues life as usual, with the wife going to work and the children going to school. Bearing in mind that all family members are in direct contact with the suspect carrier, would it not have been rational to quarantine the entire family unit?

Another area is the imposition of ambulance charges. These have not been waived even for SARs cases. Surely relatively this small fee can be dispensed with (and absorbed by hospitals) as this would definitely encourage suspect cases to use ambulances rather then public transport (and risk further infections).

Comparisons of Singapore’s relative “success” with Hong Kong and China have to be made in proper perspective. Singapore is not Hong Kong (let alone China) and does not a population running into the billions. Control of its borders are also much easier compared with Hong Kong’s nightmare.

Now is not the time for local politicians to give them selves a pat on the back for a job well done. Self Praise is No Praise and much refinement is still needed in the areas of quarantine procedures and policy implementations. Areas that should have been addressed by our well paid civil servants and ministers.

But as usual the ever opportunistic PAP politicians have leveraged on the SARs outbreak as another marketing scheme and public relations drive.

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