SINGAPORE — Correction directions under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) have been issued against several entities, including CNA online, for publishing comments made by Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Paul Tambyah recently that was deemed to contain falsehoods.
In a joint press statement on Sunday (5 July), the Ministries of Health and Manpower said the false statements made by Dr Tambyah, who is contesting in Bukit Panjang single member constituency (SMC), consist of the following:
Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) email advisory to employers on testing of migrant workers was made without the advice from public health medical professionals
MOM’s advisory stated that employers would lose their work pass privileges if they brought their workers for COVID-19 testing
MOM actively discouraged the testing of workers
The list of entities issued the correction direction are:
Video “NUSS Pre-General Election Forum 2020”, published by NUSS on 3 July 2020 on YouTube
Facebook post and video titled “Dr Paul Tambyah reveals MOM’s role in outbreak of COVID-19 within dormitories”, published by TOC on 4 July 2020
Video “TOC GE2020 Livestream – Afternoon session 2 July 2020”, published by TOC on 2 July 2020
Online article “GE2020: Focus on public health could have been lost in March amid talk of early election, suggests SDP’s Paul Tambyah”, published by CNA on 4 July 2020
Audio recording titled “An Interview with Dr Paul Tambyah”, published by New Naratif on 5 July 2020
The correction directions “will require NUSS, TOC, CNA and New Naratif to each carry a correction notice stating that the above-mentioned online content contains false statement of facts”, the statement said.
MOM ‘didn’t actively discourage’ testing of workers
In the press statement, the ministries pointed out that the multi-ministry taskforce to tackle COVID-19 was set up in January 2020 and staffed by senior public officials and medical professionals. “The medical management of migrant workers was guided by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and its medical professionals, based on the prevailing scientific evidence and local situation.”
On 8 February, MOH was informed by Changi General Hospital that an employer in the construction sector was sending all his workers to the hospital’s emergency department to be tested for the virus even though the workers did not show any symptoms, the statement said. The employer wanted memos from the hospital to certify that the workers were free of the virus and fit to work.
“The hospital was concerned that this would trigger a flood of healthy workers being sent to A&E departments, distracting them from the care and treatment of ill patients who required their attention. On 12 February 2020, MOH, MOM and other agencies jointly issued an advisory to the industry to advise that there was no need to prevent workers who were residing in the dormitory from working if they were not unwell,” the statement added.
But other hospitals subsequently told MOH that employers were still sending healthy workers to their emergency departments for testing. “MOH then informed MOM, and a further advisory was sent out on 19 February 2020 to advise employers not to send their workers who were healthy for testing, so as to ensure that medical facilities and resources were focused on unwell individuals who needed medical treatment. This advice was based on the prevailing scientific evidence at that time and was also in line with MOH’s risk-based approach to prioritise testing and care for those who were of high risk,” the statement said.
“In the advisories to employers, MOM did not say that employers could not bring their workers for testing. Neither did MOM actively discourage the testing of workers. What MOM said was: ‘Do not send workers to hospitals unless it is a medical emergency. If the worker is unwell, employers should send him to a general practitioner to seek medical attention, who will make a proper assessment on whether the worker needs to be sent to the hospital.’ The same advice was given to all in Singapore, citizens as well as residents: If unwell, even with mild respiratory symptoms, see a general practitioner immediately, who will decide on the course of treatment.”
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