TL;DR – Finally, someone asked the six million dollar question!
Before we get to Minister Lawrence Wong’s explanation on why Singapore did not close its border to India earlier given the raging outbreak there, let’s first clear a few things up.
- All long-term pass holders and short-term visitors who have travelled to India within the last 14 days are disallowed to enter or transit through Singapore. This has been in effect since 23 April 2021.
- Singapore has also stopped entry or transit for visitors with recent travel history to Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. This has been in effect since 2 May 2021.
- Only Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents of Singapore will be allowed entry from these countries. There will be tests upon arrival and they are also subject to a 21-day SHN at a SHN Dedicated Facility (SDF). YAY for taking care of our own people!
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
For a few weeks now, many Singaporeans have been wondering about why we have not closed our borders to the “high-risk” countries. And the anti-foreigner sentiments, particularly against those from South Asia, have been rising.
Finally, at the multi-minister taskforce (MTF) press conference this evening, a reporter asked the six million dollar question: Should we have closed our border to India earlier?
Min Wong’s response is an important one. We’re hoping more people will read this and understand the complexity and the truth of the matter.
So pass this around!
A condensed version: Min Wong on why Singapore did not close its border to India given the raging outbreak there:
On travel, we should look at the bigger picture.
Singapore cannot shut its borders for a long time, certainly not for a prolonged duration of time. We are small, we need migrant workers to build our homes, we need resources etc for our own needs and for essential services like caring for our elderly etc.
It’s really very hard for us to close our borders permanently. Instead, we’ve always taken a risk-based approach in managing our borders from the start. But we have done quite a fair bit to control the condition:
Firstly, we control the inflow of arrivals. If you look at today, from Jan till now, the overall number of inflows has been about stable and in fact, has been coming down even before restricting arrivals from India. We’ve already become very tight, to the point that the backlog of applications has been growing… Many projects have been suffering from delays, as all of us know.
After more bans on the Indian subcontinent, it means considerable delays will be added to all of our projects. Some of our housing projects may now be delayed by up to a year or more. So it does come at a considerable cost to Singaporeans.
Secondly, we have always had a Stay-Home-Notice (SHN) regime so that migrant workers who come in have to serve a SHN regime. We have been progressively tightening the regime in the last few months. Workers in some sectors were already serving a 21-day SHN and were tested more regularly.
Third, we prioritise the vaccination of officers working at our borders.
Despite all of these measures, there are leaks in the community from time to time. This can happen even in a country like China with its very tight border measures where the Indian variant leaked into several cities.
So, the point is, we continue to keep our border measures as tight as possible but we cannot rely solely on border controls.
We have to make use of other tools at our disposal. If we do all of these well, then we can control the spread of the infection in our community. What other tools? We have to use testing, SMMs, vaccinations etc. to control the spread of infection in our community.
We are examining all these possibilities, but at the same time, we have to make sure that within the community we take all the necessary precautions and safeguards.