S'pore govt has started review of first phase of Covid-19 response: Lawrence Wong , Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

S'pore govt has started review of first phase of Covid-19 response: Lawrence Wong

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A review of the first phase of Singapore's response to the Covid-19 pandemic - from the start of the outbreak till August 2021 - is underway, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Monday (May 9).

The after-action review (AAR) is intended as a broad-ranging exercise to put Singapore in better stead for the next pandemic, he told the House, adding that it will be overseen by former civil service head Peter Ho.

Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean had first announced plans to review the Government's Covid-19 response in July last year, in response to questions from Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh. On Monday, Mr Singh asked about the format of the review and whether the Government plans to share findings with the public.

Mr Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force handling Covid-19, noted Mr Teo had said the review would be conducted when the situation has stabilised and when Singapore is out of the woods.

Singapore's pandemic response so far can be characterised by two broad phases, he said. "In the first phase, which was from the start of the outbreak to August last year, we focused on containing the spread of the virus. Thereafter, when we had vaccinated a high proportion of people in Singapore, we shifted our approach to learn to live with the virus.

"For now, the pandemic is still not over, but the situation has improved. Therefore, the Government has started work on the AAR focusing on the first phase of our experience," he added.

The review aims to thoroughly analyse Singapore's experiences and look at the lessons learned, and the Government will share these findings upon its completion, said Mr Wong.

Mr Singh pointed out that the public had limited or no knowledge of Singapore's shortcomings during Covid-19 and the lessons to be learnt, including how the country can be better prepared both physically and psychologically when another pathogen or emergency arrives.

He asked how many participants the AAR would have and whether the exercise would also include reviewing scenarios in emergency preparedness as well as building up domestic manufacturing capability in critical areas.

Responding, Mr Wong said the AAR was a whole-of-Government endeavour. He reiterated that the aim was to learn "rigorously" from the Covid-19 experience to prepare for a next pandemic "which will surely come".

He pointed out Singapore had taken a similar approach in reviewing its handling of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003, which led to the creation of the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) framework and the National Centre for Infectious Diseases being set up.

"The lessons that we hope to derive from this AAR will be wide-ranging and will include how we can be more resilient as a nation - how we can improve our supply chains how we can improve our national resiliency in a broad range of areas," Mr Wong added.

Progress Singapore Party Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai asked if the review would included a detailed assessment of the $100 billion committed to fighting Covid-19 over the past two years.

The review's focus was really on "issues of strategic and national importance", the minister replied.

"The question that Mr Leong asked really is more pertaining to accountability with regard to money spent, which is a important issue but I think a slightly different one," said Mr Wong, who added that the Finance Ministry would be happy to take this up.

"We do that with regard to all areas of spending and where relevant, we will put out information on how the monies are spent. But let the AAR focus on the most strategic and important issues that will enable us to be better prepared for the next pandemic."