Wednesday, 23 September 2020

COVID-19: How can Singapore reopen its borders and keep people safe?

Balancing the need to reopen country and keep people safe
Experts weigh in as Singapore takes steps to reopen borders in a safe, controlled way
By Clara Chong, The Straits Times, 23 Sep 2020

To stop COVID-19 from entering the country, Singapore shut its doors to travellers. But in the last three months, it has gradually reopened its borders, increasing the risk of infections creeping into the community. To beat the virus while trying to revive the hard-hit travel and aviation industries, the Republic has set up numerous safeguards - to keep cases low, even as numbers surge in some other countries.

A BALANCING ACT

The risk from imported cases is not new, and in fact, border controls have always been a cornerstone of the Republic's defence strategies, experts told The Straits Times.

But the challenge now is to reopen borders in a safe and controlled way amid a pandemic that is still raging in other parts of the world, said Associate Professor Josip Car, director of the Centre for Population Health Sciences at Nanyang Technological University's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine. The growing knowledge of how to stop the virus spread would help the country reopen its borders smartly, he noted.

But as more countries experience worsening outbreaks, including India and those in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas, it becomes more important to be prudent and cautious when arranging travel green lanes, to protect the fragile local situation that has been brought under control after much effort, said Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health.


Conversely, said Prof Teo, priority for travel arrangements should be given to countries with a stable local situation and which have similarly put in place strict public health measures.

The biggest benefit, when it comes to aviation and travel, will be through the resumption of mass market tourism, but it comes at a price: It poses the greatest risk to the country.

"Governments worldwide will really need to decide whether regaining the economic activity from tourism justifies the risk to the rest of the local economy," said Prof Teo.

For some countries, this decision is a difficult one as tourism drives a major segment of the local economy, but for many others, shutting down mass market tourism to safeguard the rest of the economy and allow the rest of the community and society to function is a necessary compromise.


Singapore does not expect "no new cases", and there would be a tolerance for a small number of imported cases, said Professor Dale Fisher, a senior consultant in the infectious diseases division at the National University Hospital.

He said it is crucial that visitors entering the country continue to obey the rules on mask wearing and safe distancing, and not having gatherings of more than five in a group.

Asked about the speed at which Singapore is reopening its borders, Prof Fisher suggested that the country could afford to quicken its pace.

"I am sure there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work between governments, health insurers and those in the travel industry to make it happen. Any country that has few cases, does contact tracing quickly and has few unlinked cases should be 'approved'."

If there are additional risks, stricter restrictions such as a week-long stay-home notice and wearing a contact-tracing device can then be added, Prof Fisher said.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Spanish triathlete shows incredible sportsmanship by giving up medal to rival who went wrong way

Why Diego Méntrida's decency should matter to us
By Rohit Brijnath, The Straits Times, 22 Sep 2020

After a weekend of baskets and goals, after unflappable Liverpool and unstoppable Tadej Pogacar at the Tour de France, after an agitated Novak Djokovic and a bicep-flexing Bryson DeChambeau, here's the real question we should ask:

Would we do what Diego Mentrida did? Would we have stopped?

It's possible you haven't heard about Mentrida yet but it's understandable, for he isn't particularly famous or easily recognisable and yet he produced an act of such simplicity this month, it will shake you up.

In a triathlon in Spain, a British triathlete James Teagle who was in third place, misread the signs, went 50m the wrong way and then, as is apparent in a video, crashes into a metal barrier close to the finish line. In the ensuing chaos, Mentrida overtakes him.

Bad luck, Teagle?

No, good guy Mentrida.

The Spaniard stops before the finish line. He waits. He lets Teagle cross the line before him in third place. "He deserved it," Mentrida said later and yet he had done what athletes are trained not to do. To give way.


Victory every day is helped along by error, by a defender slipping in the rain for instance, but this was different. This was not the normal course of play, not the breaking of strings on a racket but a misreading of directions. Mentrida was aware that if it wasn't for Teagle - who was evidently unaware of the way - running into the barrier the British triathlete would be ahead. The race, he decided, deserved a decent ending.

Still, would we have stopped?

No one would have raised a critical eyebrow had Mentrida taken advantage of his luck. Too bad, he might have told Teagle, and we may have agreed. Nevertheless, in what Teagle called a show of "incredible sportsmanship and integrity", Mentrida halted and it is such an affecting moment that you will rewind the video and watch it repeatedly.

There is no fuss from him, no flourish, just respect for Teagle and the sport he competes in. Mentrida must have been tired for this is the triathlon and yet in exhaustion he found clarity. His instincts, we might say, were beautiful. In the heat of the moment, the greatest excuse for idiocy in sport, he found his finest self.

And so let's ask again, would we have stopped? Is it in us? Do we care enough for sport?

Reports say the organisers gave Mentrida the same prize money as third place, a case of one fine gesture sparking another. But Mentrida did not know this when he stopped for Teagle. He did not think of the cost and always there is one. To give way is to sacrifice prize money, ranking points, a podium place, presumably the very reasons why Mentrida competes.

Winning is now hardwired into young humans, who are instructed that this is what you play for. Coaches scream it, newspapers trumpet it, entire documentaries - The Last Dance - are focused on it. So Mentrida, in effect, is going against the grain, he is proving that an alternative theory exists where there is room for sportsmanship.

This hardly sullies sport, it enriches it and gives it a shine, but it only comes from good schooling. Mentrida wrote on Instagram that "this is something that my parents and my club have taught me since I was little. In my opinion it should be considered as a normal situation". When Teagle thanked him - and he did so repeatedly - the Spaniard shrugged. He made the astonishing look routine.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

SingapoRediscovers Vouchers: All adult Singaporeans to get $100 tourism vouchers in December 2020 for staycations, attractions and local tours

The scheme will last for seven months, from December 2020 to end-June 2021
By Tiffany Fumiko Tay, The Straits Times, 17 Sep 2020

Singaporeans aged 18 and above this year will receive $100 each to spend on staycations, tickets to leisure attractions and local tours, in a move to stimulate domestic spending and save jobs in the tourism sector.

The digital SingapoRediscovers Vouchers will be accessible via SingPass from December and can be used to offset ticket purchases and hotel stays until the end of June next year. Permanent residents will not be eligible for the vouchers.

Adult Singaporeans will also be able to purchase up to six subsidised tickets for attractions and tours - each at $10 off - for those under 18.

Announcing the details yesterday, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said the duration of the voucher programme is timed to coincide with the March, June and December school holidays, and to spread out demand in between.

The initiative is not a social assistance scheme, he stressed.

"This is an economic scheme to help our tourist attractions preserve their capabilities that have been built up over the years while they consolidate capacity in the interim," Mr Chan told reporters during a visit to Jurong Bird Park.


The $320 million SingapoRediscovers Vouchers scheme was first announced last month and forms part of the Government's efforts to prop up the tourism sector, which has been decimated by travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vouchers, which will come in denominations of $10, can be used at all licensed hotels, leisure attractions and for local tours by operators that have received approval from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to reopen or resume.

There are currently 214 hotels, 40 attractions and 438 tour itineraries that have been given the green light to resume operations with safe management measures in place. They include Singapore's four wildlife parks, a number of activities and hotels on Sentosa and guided tours of Pulau Ubin.


STB also announced that tourist attractions can apply to increase their operating capacity to 50 per cent - up from the current 25 per cent - from tomorrow.

Gardens by the Bay and park operator Wildlife Reserves Singapore are among those planning to do so.

The move to get Singaporeans to support local businesses is gathering pace, with the latest move complementing the $45 million SingapoRediscovers marketing campaign, launched in July to promote holidays at home. The vouchers will provide added incentive for Singaporeans to rediscover their backyard, STB said.


Mr Chan added that while there are other support schemes for tourism businesses, the vouchers will encourage consumers to support fellow citizens employed in the industry.

He said businesses outside the tourism sector are expected to see a boost as well, as spending spills over into food and beverage, for example. "As to the exact extent of the catalytic effect, it will be a bit hard to predict at this point in time, but we hope that it is at least a few times what we have provided for in the Budget," he added.


The STB said specific details on how the vouchers can be redeemed will be announced in November.

It called a tender yesterday to appoint platforms to facilitate the redemption of vouchers.

While the tourism board expects that the redemption process "will adopt a digital mode by default", it will provide support for those who have difficulty using such methods.

Observers said the $100 credits will drive interest in leisure activities that Singaporeans may have previously overlooked, but operators need to boost their offerings to spur additional out-of-pocket spending.


Sunday, 13 September 2020

12 September 1945: Why we must not forget

Japanese surrender marks radical break from the past, starting a process where Singapore gains independence 20 years later
By Clement Yong, The Sunday Times, 13 Sep 2020

It was 75 years ago yesterday that Singapore ushered in the post-World War II era, starting a process which would see it gain independence 20 years later.

On Sept 12, 1945, thousands gathered to hiss at the Japanese around the Municipal Building of Singapore - now known as City Hall.

General Seishiro Itagaki of Japan signed 11 copies of the Instrument of Surrender that day, marking the end of nearly four years of the Japanese Occupation of South-east Asia.

An eyewitness account in The Straits Times on Sept 13 observed that the Japanese delegates at the surrender ceremony were "immobile, except (for) one who twiddles his thumbs and twitches his feet".

It further noted that the Japanese representatives were bareheaded, perhaps recently shaven. "The lights glint on bald pates," it said.

The time of Gen Itagaki's signature: 11.10am. Nine minutes later, the Japanese stood, bowed and shuffled out to "jeers and catcalls" from the crowd.

Perhaps intoxicated by the moment, the journalist wrote: "All Singapore turned out to see the pageantry."



These days, however, the occasion is hardly remembered, much less commemorated enthusiastically.

Checks with the National Library Board, the National Heritage Board and the Singapore Armed Forces Veterans' League (SAFVL) show no events have been planned, in part because of the coronavirus.

While the SAFVL organises a memorial and school trips on Feb 15 each year - when the British surrendered Singapore in 1942 - it said Sept 12 is significant but not as "compelling to illustrate the national values we wish to instil in our children".

The National Museum of Singapore is holding a talk in commemoration of the end of WWII only on Sept 28.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 led to the cancellation of a ceremony originally planned to take place at the Kranji War Cemetery, leaving representatives, including high commissioners and ambassadors from seven former combatant nations - Australia, Canada, India, Japan, New Zealand, Britain and Singapore - to separately lay wreaths at the Cenotaph yesterday.

Students of The Japanese School Singapore also made 2,000 tsuru, or paper cranes, to symbolise peace and reconciliation.

In part, the lack of locally organised events reflects how Sept 12 continues to be a hard date to pin down when it comes to what it means for Singaporeans.

It is indisputable that residents received a reprieve with the departure of the Japanese, whose violent reign included campaigns such as Sook Ching, which killed 40,000 to 50,000 Chinese in Singapore and Malaya.

But the years when Singaporeans could decide their own fate were still to come.

It was "Rule Britannia" which sounded at the 1945 ceremony, and the Union Jack that was hoisted.

Peace was also only slowly re-established and scarcity continued.

It was neither a trough or a crest of Singapore's history.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

PM Lee Hsien Loong's speech at the Debate on the Motion of Thanks to the President on 2 September 2020

Singapore must avoid going down path of polarised politics: PM Lee
Government and opposition must work for good of country, not just partisan interests
By Lim Yan Liang, Assistant News Editor, The Straits Times, 3 Sep 2020

Singapore's success over the years, from building up its economy to tackling the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, has been possible because the country managed to get its politics right, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

And it is up to Singaporeans to ensure it remains so, by being engaged on the issues, sending the right signals through their votes and rewarding parties that delivered for the people.

The ruling People's Action Party, which helped build the country with the people, has a special duty to keep the system working, providing the leadership the country needs and deserves.

"At the most fundamental level, to make our politics work, both the Government and the opposition must share an overriding objective - to work for Singapore, and not just for our party or our supporters," he added yesterday, when he rose to join the debate on the President's Address to the opening of Parliament.



That would make it possible to have policy debates based on principles and fact, guided by shared ideals and goals, including protecting Singapore's security, growing its economy and securing its future.

"If we do that, then there's a basis for us to manage the inherent tensions in our system, and for politics to work out productively," he said, but cautioned that it was not a given that the virtuous circle would continue.



Elsewhere, politics has become increasingly toxic and bitter, issues are politicised and governments paralysed by partisan bickering, leaving countries divided and on a spiral downwards.

"If this happens to Singapore, we will not just cease being an exceptional nation, it will be the end of us. We must not go down this path."

While there is no guarantee that even under a PAP government, Singapore will forever be successful, PM Lee called on Singaporeans to work with and keep faith with the Government, a formula that has served the country well.



In a wide-ranging 90-minute speech broadcast live, he also spoke on Singapore's ongoing battle against Covid-19 and noted that the nation has managed, after eight gruelling months, to stabilise the situation, with one of the world's lowest fatality rates. This had called for a tremendous effort, with Singaporeans working together and giving the Government their trust and support, he said.



The same compact will be crucial as the country navigates a changed world that requires stronger safety nets, the thorny issue of foreign worker policy, and evolving politics given the greater desire for opposition voices in Parliament, he said.

There was a need for more robust safety nets going forward, he said, citing greater economic uncertainty and the long-term trends of an ageing population and rising healthcare costs.

The Government is not ideologically opposed to any solutions raised, he added. But it is imperative these safety nets are fiscally sustainable and do not create new problems in themselves, like eroding the spirit of self-reliance.



Singapore is also reviewing its foreign worker criteria, given the slack in the job market due to the downturn. Yet it must be careful not to give the wrong impression that it no longer welcomes foreigners, as its success is predicated on being an international hub that serves a global market, he said.

Taking up the hot button issue of foreigners competing with Singaporeans for jobs, which had dominated the first two days of the debate, he said: "The Government will always be on the side of Singaporeans. What is the point of creating jobs for foreigners if it does not benefit Singaporeans?"

He added: "We may be under stress now, but we cannot turn inwards. We will adjust our policies to safeguard Singaporean jobs, but let us show confidence that Singaporeans can hold their own in the world."

A spirited exchange with Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh followed PM Lee's speech, in which he said he had listened carefully to Mr Singh spelling out on Monday how he planned to go about his new role. "I applaud his tone and approach. The government benches will do our part to work with him, to keep Parliament a constructive forum for debate," PM Lee said.



He added that it was good to have an adequate number of opposition MPs in the House, to keep the Government on its toes. But he warned that the opposition's tactic of urging voters to back it, assuming the PAP would still be around to form the government, was flawed.

"At what point does a vote for a strong opposition become a vote for a different government?" he asked.



Responding, Mr Singh said he and his colleagues were sincere in standing for election to ensure an opposition presence, not because he was "desperate for power" or had dreams of forming a government. Likewise, in posing questions such as on the use of the nation's reserves, they were seeking good outcomes for Singapore and not out of a desire of "raiding them", he said.



PM Lee concluded his speech on a rousing note. Covid-19, like so many other challenges that Singapore has faced, would be a "platform for ambition and daring", he said, pledging that the nation would emerge stronger and more united from the crisis, as it had done in the past.

"We are here by dint of will and imagination, in defiance of all the odds. And of all those who said we wouldn't make it, we did.

"Do not doubt. Do not fear. Jewel will shine again. Changi will thrive again. SIA will be a great way to fly once more. Our economy will prosper anew," he said.



Choking up as he concluded, PM Lee said: "Our children and our grandchildren will continue marching forward to build a fairer, evermore just and equal society."

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Debate on the President's Address: 14th Parliament of Singapore

Debate kicks off with focus on Singapore core and values
DPM Heng Swee Keat: Singapore must adapt to change but stay true to its values
By Lim Yan Liang, Assistant News Editor, The Straits Times, 1 Sep 2020

As Covid-19 ravages lives and economies around the world, Singapore will have to adapt to change while staying true to the values that helped it progress over the years, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday at the start of a week-long debate on the President's Address in a new term of Parliament.

This includes remaining open to trade, investment and talent as a key global node with deep connections to the rest of the world.

Doing so would help draw investments and create good jobs that Singaporeans can compete fairly for. That, he argued, was the best way to serve the interests of Singaporeans.



"Our starting point is that our economic strategies must serve the interests of Singaporeans," he said.

That is why manpower policies, such as on Employment Passes, are being adapted to ensure that the interests of Singaporeans are upheld in the face of economic disruption. But he warned against the temptation to turn inwards.

"The best way is to ensure that this little red dot - with no natural resources of any kind, but with a determined, hard-working, forward-looking people - remains useful and relevant to the world," said Mr Heng.

"We do this by keeping our economy vibrant and competitive, so that Singaporeans and other people choose to be here, to invest and do business, thereby creating good jobs and opportunities for all of us."



The Government will redouble its efforts to ensure that Singapore workers will be armed with the skills to grab the opportunities that come their way, helping them achieve their fullest potential, Mr Heng added.

Some of the key points in Mr Heng's speech - adapting to change and strengthening the Singapore core of the workforce - were also themes that dominated discussion on day one of the debate in the House.

Taking up the theme, labour MPs made plain that discrimination against local workers will not be tolerated.



Mr Patrick Tay (Pioneer), who delivered the opening address for the debate, called on the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to consider further raising the minimum qualifying salaries for Employment Pass (EP) holders for two sectors, infocomm technology and professional services. His call came days after the Government announced the second rise in salary thresholds of EP holders this year.

Mr Tay, who is an assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, also urged the Government to consider tougher measures such as an EP quota.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng emphasised that Singapore "will not allow companies to practise wanton discrimination against our local talent", and that MOM has been stepping up its surveillance and enforcement.

But he cautioned against curtailing manpower supply through measures like a quota system, which he said is not a long-term solution.



Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh called on the Government to go further, such as with an anti-discrimination law that will penalise egregious employers.

Delivering his maiden speech as Singapore's first formally designated Leader of the Opposition, Mr Singh also charged that the lack of information on a complex issue like foreign manpower numbers has created "a vacuum (that) has given space for a more toxic conversation to ferment".

Reiterating his call for more data, Mr Singh said how much the opposition can do depends on the quantity and quality of information the Government puts out. He also urged the Government to "put out more information without being asked to".



Both People's Action Party and opposition MPs also touched on President Halimah Yacob's point in her speech last week that Singapore must evolve its politics, and the need to find a way to deliver effective government while accommodating the growing diversity of views here.

Leader of the House Indranee Rajah cautioned against greater diversity of views and more robust debates in Parliament leading to greater polarisation among Singaporeans.

"Experience elsewhere shows that unity in diversity is not an assured outcome," she said. "Our goal should be to harness this diversity of views in a constructive manner, so that we can as a Parliament better serve the interests of Singaporeans and Singapore."



DPM Heng put it this way: "This House must fulfil its duty, to articulate and debate policy options, to build a better life for our people, and to advance Singapore's place in the world. This is the mandate that has been entrusted to us by Singaporeans.

"I trust that all of us, whether in Government or the opposition, will share this common sense of mission, to serve in the best interests of Singaporeans and Singapore."

Monday, 31 August 2020

CECA: Clarifying 3 common misconceptions about Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement

Chan Chun Sing clarifies 3 common misconceptions about CECA
In an interview on Friday, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing debunked three misconceptions about the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). The free trade pact has come under attack from some quarters on social media in recent months as well as during the general election.
By Grace Ho, Senior Political Correspondent, The Sunday Times, 30 Aug 2020


MYTH 1: CECA GRANTS INDIAN NATIONALS UNCONDITIONAL ACCESS TO SINGAPORE AND IMMIGRATION PRIVILEGES

It is not true that CECA gives Indian nationals the right to take up citizenship or permanent residency, said Mr Chan. In Chapter 9 of the agreement on movement of natural persons, Article 9.1.2 states: "This Chapter shall not apply to measures pertaining to citizenship, permanent residence, or employment on a permanent basis."

The proportion of ethnic Indian citizens in the Singapore population has remained stable, he said.

The agreement does not oblige Singapore to automatically grant employment passes (EPs) to Indian nationals. Like all other foreigners, they must meet the prevailing EP criteria, like minimum salary thresholds.

A key bone of contention is intra-corporate transferees (ICTs), which refer to transfers of a company's employees from one country to another. In these instances, companies that bring them in do not have to advertise the position to locals as part of the Fair Consideration Framework.

But they must still meet the EP criteria, as well as have industry experience and worked in the parent company for a minimum duration, said Mr Chan.

Under CECA, such transferees must have worked at least six months in the parent company, among other requirements. They can stay a total term of eight years, at most.

Mr Chan said Singapore's CECA commitments are neither unique nor overly broad, as most of the 164 members of the World Trade Organisation have also made commitments on entry of ICTs under the General Agreement on Trade in Services. Local companies tap Singaporean ICTs too, when they expand overseas, he said.

"It applies equally to Indian companies coming here and to Singapore companies going overseas - under CECA or under any other (free trade agreements). This is to help them kick-start the overseas operations."





MYTH 2: CECA DOES NOT BENEFIT SINGAPORE ECONOMICALLY

Since CECA was signed in 2005, Singapore's trade with India has grown by $7.6 billion and investments, by 34 times.

By 2018, more than 650 companies in Singapore had invested in India.

Mr Chan said the trade pact not only protects Singapore companies that invest in India, but also attracts foreign investors who invest in India, and employ Singaporeans to manage their investments.

In Singapore, these companies employ nearly 100,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents.

What this means is that the Indian market, as with other large markets, helps these companies to diversify and make their operations more robust.

"Besides having better access to a huge market and all the savings that come with tariff reductions, it also allows us to grow our capabilities," said Mr Chan.

Companies such as PSA and engineering firm Meinhardt are also now key players in port management and engineering in India, he added.





MYTH 3: CECA HAS CAUSED OVERCONCENTRATION OF INDIAN NATIONALS IN SOME COMPANIES HERE

Mr Chan said the presence of certain nationalities is shaped by the choice of sectors Singapore wants to grow.

Currently, these include new and fast-growing sectors, such as info-communications and technology, professional services and financial services.

It is not that Singaporeans are not good enough for the jobs in these sectors, but that Singapore does not have enough people for these jobs, he said.

"We do not have enough numbers to get to the critical mass."

Mr Chan said the profile of Singapore's foreign workforce will evolve over time as its industry profile changes.

"In the 1960s and 1970s, when we were building up our petrochemical industries, the top management positions (in companies such as Shell) were not mainly Singaporeans either. But after a few decades, why is it that the top spots are held by Singaporeans?

"Because we allowed the previous generation the opportunity to create jobs not only for themselves, but also for this generation."

The same thing happened in the 1980s and 1990s, when Singapore's focus was on electronics and semiconductors, he said.

"Today, we have a whole generation of precision engineering firms, engineers to support the semiconductor industry, and have many spin-offs."



Sunday, 30 August 2020

CareShield Life: Singapore's national disability insurance will be launched on 1 October 2020

MediSave Care, which allows cash withdrawals from MediSave accounts for long-term care needs will also launch in October 2020
By Ang Hwee Min, Channel NewsAsia, 28 Aug 2020

Long-term care support schemes CareShield Life and MediSave Care will be launched on Oct 1, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Friday (Aug 28).

The CareShield Life and Long-term Care Bill was passed in September 2019, allowing for Singaporeans born in 1980 or later, including those with pre-existing disabilities, to be enrolled in compulsory long-term disability insurance.

The MediSave Care scheme allows for cash withdrawals from MediSave accounts for long-term care needs.

CareShield Life was originally scheduled to launch in mid-2020, but was delayed because agencies and vendors had to reduce the “pace of development and testing work” due to COVID-19 safe distancing measures and the “circuit breaker” period, Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong had said in June.

Singapore residents aged 30 to 40 in 2020 - or those born between 1980 and 1990, inclusive - will be the first cohorts to join the scheme from Oct 1 or their 30th birthday, whichever is later.

These individuals will receive a CareShield Life welcome package by Sep 2, or up to two months before their 30th birthday.

Subsequent cohorts, or those born after 1990, will automatically join the scheme when they turn 30, and will also receive a CareShield Life welcome package before they turn 30.

Those who are enrolled between 2020 and 2024 will receive up to S$250 in transitional subsidies, said the Health Ministry in a press release on Friday.


The scheme is optional for Singapore residents born in 1979 or earlier. Details on when these cohorts can join CareShield Life will be released in 2021, said MOH.

They will have the opportunity to join CareShield Life, with the option to switch from ElderShield towards the end of 2021. The launch of the scheme for existing cohorts was originally planned for mid-2021.

At S$600 per month in 2020, starting CareShield Life payouts for Singaporeans with severe disability will be higher than under the existing ElderShield Scheme, and will increase annually until age 67, or when a successful claim is made, said the Health Ministry.

While ElderShield pays out S$300 or S$400 per month for up to six years, CareShield Life’s higher payout lasts potentially for life, and as long as the person remains severely disabled.

Singapore residents can use MediSave to pay for their own CareShield Life premiums and for approved dependents, said MOH.

“No one will lose coverage because of an inability to pay their premiums,” said the ministry, adding that the Government will provide support measures to ensure that premiums remain affordable.

Up to two-thirds of households will be eligible for CareShield Life premium subsidies of up to 30 per cent, with permanent means-tested subsidies for lower- to middle-income Singapore residents, it added.

“Singapore citizens in financial need who are unable to pay for their premiums even after the premium subsidies can apply for additional premium support from the Government.”



MEDISAVE CARE

Under MediSave Care, which also launches from Oct 1, Singapore residents aged 30 and above can tap on their own and their spouse’s MediSave accounts to withdraw cash of up to S$200 per month for long-term care needs, or a total of S$2,400 per year.

The amount that can be withdrawn is dependent on the MediSave account balance. A minimum of S$5,000 has to be set aside in the MediSave account “to ensure sufficient savings for other medical expenses such as hospitalisation and selected costly outpatient treatments”, said MOH.

Individuals whose MediSave account balances are insufficient can tap on their spouse’s MediSave account to supplement the withdrawal, up to a combined total of S$200 per month.

“As our population ages, we want to ensure that Singaporeans continue to have accessible and affordable long-term care. With CareShield Life, severely disabled Singaporeans can be assured that they will receive financial support for life,” said Mr Gan in Friday’s press release.

“They will also have another avenue to fund their long-term care needs, by tapping on their MediSave savings under MediSave Care," he added.

"Together with ElderFund, which provides discretionary government assistance to lower-income, severely disabled Singapore citizens, these schemes will collectively enhance support for long-term care costs.”



Claim applications for both schemes will be open from Oct 1, and interested applicants should arrange for a disability assessment by an MOH-accredited severe disability assessor and submit the scheme application to the Agency for Integrated Care.