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Panic buying at supermarkets on February 7, 2020. ― TODAY pic
Panic buying at supermarkets on February 7, 2020. ― TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, May 10 — The Disease Outbreak Response System Condition (Dorscon) framework, which is a colour-coded indicator that shows the current disease situation, will be reviewed after it triggered panic buying in 2020 when the level was raised from yellow to orange, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in Parliament yesterday (May 9).

The Dorscon framework, after all, is meant to bolster preparedness, “not to induce public anxiety”, said Ong, who was responding to a question by Member of Parliament (MP) for Mountbatten Lim Biow Chuan on what criteria the Government considers when moving between Dorscon levels.

Ong added that the Government may also reactivate TraceTogether and SafeEntry if the situation requires. 

When the Dorscon level was raised in February 2020, it led to panic buying at supermarkets. The higher orange level means that a disease is severe and spreads easily from person to person, but has not spread widely in Singapore and is being contained.

Following an improved Covid-19 situation with decreasing daily cases, high levels of vaccination and the disease being milder for most, the multi-ministry taskforce on April 22 announced that the Dorscon level would be lowered back to yellow on April 26.

A yellow Dorscon level means that the disease is spreading in Singapore but it is typically mild or being contained. It also poses minimal disruption to daily life.

Ong said that the framework was developed to allow ministries and agencies to coordinate and execute the Government’s response to infectious diseases and has “served this purpose well in this pandemic”.

TraceTogether, SafeEntry will be reactivated ‘if the situation requires’

In response to a question by Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency MP Nadia Ahmad Samdin on whether guidelines will be developed for the reactivation of TraceTogether and SafeEntry, Ong said that the Government may decide to reactivate both contact tracing tools along with vaccination-differentiated safe management measures if “the situation requires”.

“It is a matter of judgement, depending on the severity of the situation, and we will have to take into account if there is a new variant of concern, whether it is more severe, more infectious than the Omicron variant, whether past infections and current vaccines continue to confer strong protection against the new variant, and how all these affect our hospital capacity.”

He understands that some members of the public want “a system with transparent and clear triggering points” but said that this is not possible as “we are in a pandemic crisis with fog of war”.

He added that the Government is “taking a cautious step down but not dismantle posture” for public health measures.

Ong urged members of the public not to delete the TraceTogether app or throw away TraceTogether tokens.

“We will step down measures when they are no longer needed, no longer necessary, so that people can resume their normal lives,” he said. ― TODAY

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