Parliament Highlights – 5 June 2020

05 Jun 2020 3 min read

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Staff of elderly daycare centres to get tested for COVID-19

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor announced that staff of eldercare services in operation, including those at daycare centres, will be progressively tested for the coronavirus in June 2020.

This follows the completion of the testing last month of staff and residents at residential care homes.

Dr Khor shared that Senior Activity Centres are required to undertake a readiness assessment, propose plans on infection prevention and safe distancing measures, before they can resume on-site activities. So far, 27 senior activity centres have passed the readiness assessment checks and have opened.

She added that the Agency of Integrated Care (AIC) would conduct spot checks to ensure the measures were implemented.

Government developing portable contact tracing device

The Government is developing a portable and wearable contact tracing device and will roll it out soon, said Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation initiative Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

The contact tracing device will achieve the same objectives as TraceTogether, but without the need for a smartphone, said Dr Balakrishnan. He also reiterated how contact tracing has become more essential as more people are out and about post-circuit breaker.

“If this portable device works, we may then distribute it to everyone in Singapore,” Dr Balakrishnan said.  

On the topic of data confidentiality, Dr Balakrishnan said personal data from TraceTogether is stored on the user’s mobile phone. The information is strictly used for contact tracing and can only be accessed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) when a user tests positive for COVID-19.

“There are safeguards including encryption in place to protect this from malicious hackers and the data that’s older than 25 days will be automatically deleted from your phone,” he added.

About 3,800 companies closed down in April: Chee Hong Tat

About 3,800 companies closed down in April, comparable to the average of 3,700 recorded in the same month over the past five years, said Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat.

However, business cessation could see an “uptick” in the coming months as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put a severe strain on the Singapore economy.

Mr Chee told Parliament that the formation of new businesses will remain subdued for the same reason.

He shared that about 3,800 business entities were set up in April, nearly a third lower than the average of 5,500 seen in the same period between 2015 and 2019. The fall was across most sectors.

Mr Chee said the coronavirus pandemic is set to weigh on many sectors in the economy for the rest of the year. This includes outward-oriented sectors such as wholesale trade, which will be adversely affected by the global economic slowdown.

On the other hand, sectors such as biomedical manufacturing, and information and communications, will continue to grow.

MOE suspends study loan repayments

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung shared that the Ministry of Education has suspended the repayment and interest for all study loans for a year. This is to give graduates a “peace of mind” during their job search. 

Mr Ong also shared that the institutes of higher learning (IHLs), from universities to polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education, have a significant network of companies and employers and have been leveraging them to provide internships and work-study programmes. He added that the institutes’ career centres will also provide career guidance, labour market information and organise job fairs.

IHLs will also offer two to four Continuing Education and Training (CET) modules free of charge to graduates who decide to delay their entry into the job market. On this, Mr Ong said this will allows the graduates to do something meaningful and credentials will be provided.