Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Minister for Health, I beg to move that “The Bill be now read a second time.”
2. Sir, this Bill proposes a single amendment, to extend the validity of Part 7 of the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 (“CTMA”) for one year. There will be no other changes to Part 7 of the CTMA. The extension will continue to allow targeted public health measures to be implemented for the purposes of preventing and controlling the spread of COVID-19, so that we can react swiftly to new and dangerous COVID-19 variants should they emerge.
3. Singapore has made significant progress against COVID-19 and we have emerged as a more resilient nation. We now have a high level of hybrid immunity in our population, through vaccination and recovery from past infection. Our COVID-19 situation has been stable over the past months. Last month, we stepped down to DORSCON Green and lifted the last of the legal requirements for COVID-19 community measures – namely mask-wearing on public transport and indoor healthcare and residential care settings. We now treat COVID-19 like other endemic infectious diseases such as influenza, and emphasise the need for all of us to keep up to date with vaccinations, to practise good hygiene habits and exercise social responsibility to prevent the spread of infection.
4. We must not take the current situation as a given or be complacent. There is still uncertainty as to how COVID-19 will develop globally. The virus continues to circulate and will continue to mutate. We cannot rule out the possible emergence of new variants that can cause infection waves and strain our healthcare resources. The Ministry of Health continues to monitor the COVID-19 situation and the evolution of the virus through our international networks and local surveillance, to pick up early signals of new variants that could be more transmissible or cause more severe disease.
5. Should such a variant emerge, we must continue to have the necessary tools to take appropriate prevention and control measures. We should therefore continue to provide in our statutes the ability to implement measures used during the pandemic.
6. We have been relying on the CTMA during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was enacted as temporary legislation to tackle the threat of COVID-19. Part 7 of the CTMA was put in place to complement the Infectious Diseases Act (“IDA”) – the main legislation used to control and prevent infectious diseases in Singapore. Now that we are heading into an endemic COVID-19 new normal and are at DORSCON Green, we should work towards stepping down Part 7 of the CTMA, and rely on the IDA to manage new variants of concern or new pandemics.
7. To do so, the Ministry of Health commenced a review to enhance the IDA, including incorporating provisions under Part 7 of the CTMA into the IDA, so that the IDA is more robust and affords us the agility to be able to cater to different situations. We intend to table the amendments to the IDA in this House in the second half of this year. Once the amendments to the IDA are passed, Part 7 of the CTMA will be revoked.
8. In the meantime, this last extension of Part 7 of the CTMA allows us to continue to maintain a posture of preparedness, should there be a need to deal with a dangerous COVID-19 variant, swiftly activate control measures to safeguard public health, and protect our healthcare system.
9. Mr Speaker, I beg to move.