Review of Singapore's COVID response will be more 'broad-ranging' than COI: Teo Chee Hean

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SCREENGRAB: YouTube channel ( YouTube channel)

SINGAPORE — An after-action review (AAR) of the Singapore government's response to the coronavirus will be more broad-ranging than a Committee of Inquiry (COI), said Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean on Monday (5 July).

"The government intends to do a very broad ranging AAR on all aspects because there are many aspects to this particular pandemic, on which we can learn good lessons for the future," said Teo, who is also a Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol.

Teo was responding to a query from Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh on whether the government would consider convening a COI on the matter. The Workers' Party chief also expressed doubts that an AAR would be as broad-ranging as a COI.

Teo told Parliament that the AAR would be similar to the one undertaken in 2004, in the wake of the SARS epidemic. The goal will be to "thoroughly analyse and learn from our experience", with participants encouraged to be open and forthcoming on both successes and shortcomings.

"A commission of inquiry, which is a quasi-investigative investigative tribunal, is not the most appropriate way to achieve this objective," said Teo, who spoke on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

While the format of the AAR has not yet been decided, it will include feedback from members of the public.

In response, Singh noted that COIs are involved in matters of public policy and multi-agency issues of grave public concern, which have also been the subject of COIs. The Aljunied MP also cited Section 3 of the Inquiries Act, which states that a commission is suitable if an inquiry is to be conducted into any matter which in the opinion of the president be in the public welfare or public interest.

Furthermore, both the United Kingdom and the state legislature of Victoria have already delivered reports on their respective governments' handling of the pandemic.

Singh reminded the House of Finance Minister Lawrence Wong's remarks last year, "I have no doubt that we will find many things we could have done better and many changes that we should make to be better prepared next time."

Noting that he has been the subject of, convenor and participant in various inquiries, Teo said that a COI is best suited to look into a singular event such as a building collapse or a major accident.

"But I don't think the pandemic fits well into such a situation. It is an ongoing and evolving event. It's not over yet." Conceding that the government's response has "by no means been perfect", the Senior Minister added that the agencies have been continuously learning and adapting in matters such as testing, contact tracing and management of foreign worker dormitories.

He added that as government agencies remain in the thick of battle, "the full AAR will therefore have to wait until the situation has stabilised and we're out of the woods."

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