In his ministerial statement in Parliament (10 May), Education Minister Lawrence Wong who is also co-chair of the Multi-Ministry Task Force said larger, continental-sized or resource-rich countries like China, Australia and New Zealand can shut their doors and minimise the flow of people but Singapore cannot.
But Singapore is in a completely different position. We are a little red dot fully plugged into the world. Trade and travel are our lifeblood – for us, these are not just good-to-have; they are existential issues. They are how, as a country, we earn a living and, remain relevant to the world.”
Singapore can keep our borders closed for a short time, but not over a prolonged duration, he said.
21-day Stay-Home Notice (SHN)
Since 15 March 2021, all newly-arrived migrant workers from the Construction, Marine and Process (CMP) sectors from higher risk countries were already required to serve 21-day SHN. The newly-arrived workers would serve out 14 days in the SHN facility, followed by seven days in the migrant worker on-boarding centres.
Lawrence Wong said, “We also applied a 21-day stay-home notice for arrivals from the few countries where the variant strains originated from – the United Kingdom, South Africa, and India. But these strains are now circulating everywhere in the world, so it has increasingly become difficult to target just countries where the strains originated from.”
Mr Wong said:
“In April we reduced entry approvals for long-term pass holders and short-term visitors from India. Later we moved to ban all travellers from India. This ban was extended to the entire South Asian region from the start of May.
Perspective in numbers
Pre-COVID, we had 200,000 travellers coming through Changi Airport every day, both on transit as well as entering Singapore. This plummeted during the circuit breaker when we closed our borders temporarily.
Largest contributor of import cases
Manpower crunch in the CMP sector
Mr Wong said:
“The inflow of CMP workers we’ve allowed up to now is still unable to meet our needs. Because every day, every week, every month, many migrant workers have left to go back to their home countries. Whatever numbers we are bringing in barely replace those who have left. Our companies including many SMEs urgently need new workers to make up the shortfall, and have been applying to MOM for approval to enter Singapore.
Contractors will be especially hard hit.