Latest News: 26 January 2021

1. Integrated Shield Plan now covers COVID-19 vaccine complications that lead to hospitalisation

Life Insurance Association, Singapore (LIA, Singapore) announced yesterday that all seven Integrated Shield Plan (IP) insurers are extending coverage to include hospitalisation resulting from COVID-19 vaccination complications, without additional premiums.Ā 

IPs are insurance plans that comprise MediShield Life, managed by the Central Provident Board (CPF) Board, and a private insurance coverage component run by the insurance company. The latter typically covers Class A or B1 wards in public or private hospitals.

MediShield Life, which covers all Singaporeans, is claimable for vaccination-related complications. Meanwhile, the private insurance segment of most IPs typically do not cover vaccination complications. The extension of these additional benefits will complement coverage provided under MediShield Life.

The IP insurers are AIA, Aviva, AXA, Great Eastern Life, NTUC Income, Prudential, and Raffles Health Insurance.

This extended coverage applies to all IP policyholders who receive COVID-19 vaccines approved by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) and are vaccinated in Singapore.Ā 

This special coverage will last until 31 December 2021, although extensions will be considered in the later part of the year after monitoring the situation.Ā 

IP policyholders with further questions are encouraged to contact their insurance representative or insurer.Ā 

Additionally, the Ministry of Health (MOH) plans to introduce a vaccine injury financial assistance programme to support those who suffer serious adverse events that are likely related to COVID-19 vaccines administered in Singapore.

Those vaccinated may experience common side effects, similar to other vaccines. Most side effects are mild or moderate, and usually get better within three days. These include pain, redness, swelling at the injection site; fever or chills; tiredness; lymph node swelling; and headaches, or muscle or joint pain. These can be treated with paracetamol.

In very rare cases, the vaccine can cause a severe allergic reaction. Symptoms include difficulty in breathing, swelling of the face, throat, eyes or lips, fast heartbeat, dizziness and weakness, and bad rash all over the body.

Anyone experiencing such symptoms after vaccination should call 995 or go to the nearest Accident and Emergency (A&E) department immediately.

2. To achieve carbon neutrality, collaboration between government, community, and investors is required

At the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos Agenda 2021, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu spoke on the topic of building ā€œnet zeroā€ cities. When it comes to Singapore achieving carbon neutrality, she said that collaboration between government agencies, the community, and financiers will be needed.

She went on to add that in a small city-state like Singapore, we face many challenges and constraints when it comes to sustainability efforts, such as the adoption of renewable energy sources. However, this has forced us to think outside the box.Ā 

Another panellist, chairman and chief executive of Schneider Electric, Mr Jean-Pascal Tricoire, said that an important step towards decarbonisation is to enable greater sharing of data between stakeholders.Ā 

He added that this has been made possible in recent years with the advent of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, big data, artificial intelligence, and mobile tools.Ā 

Ms Fu agreed with his points, highlighting that the Singapore Government would like to obtain data from various systems to better understand Singapore’s total carbon footprint. It will then be able to analyse different sectors, find the big emitters, and set targets for specific sectors.

As an example of the collaboration needed among various stakeholders, Ms Fun cited Singapore’s aim of adopting more electric vehicles for private and public transport; for electric charging points to be rolled out across the nation, collaboration and agreement between agencies and various communities is required.

3. Issues of non-Chinese Prime Minister and two-party political system raised; Senior Minister Janil Puthucheary suggested it was up to Singaporeans to decide

In the recent Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) panel entitled ā€œPolitics of Singapore 2030ā€, matters relating to having a non-Chinese Prime Minister (PM) and two-party political system were discussed.

The panel consisted of Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health, Janil Puthucheary, Aljunied Member of Parliament (MP) Gerald Giam, and Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Hazel Poa.

In response to an audience memberā€™s question on the prospect of a non-Chinese Prime Minister, Dr Puthucheary had said that ā€œit will be up to the people of Singapore to decide, ultimately, about this matterā€.

Dr Puthucheary went on to add that he hopes that talk about a non-Chinese PM will not be about ā€œan icon of resetting or an icon of reimagining, but on the basis of that personā€™s ability to do the job rightā€.Ā 

In response, Mr Gerald Giam countered that the PM is not directly elected by Singaporeans and instead, was elected by a political party. Thus, he suggests that it is up to the individual parties to decide whether they want to field a non-Chinese as their secretary-general.Ā 

Mr Gian highlights Workersā€™ Partyā€™s (WP) current leader Pritam Singh as an example, as well as the WPā€™s Aljunied team, which comprises three non-Chinese and two Chinese.Ā 

He said of the decision that ā€œif race and language was such an important factor…we would have made sure that we field an all-Chinese slate…but we made our calculations and therefore we chose that slate of candidates, regardless of raceā€.

The topic of a two-party political system was also raised, in reference to PM Lee Hsien Loongā€™s comments in 2011 that a two-party political system is ā€œnot workableā€ in Singapore due to ā€œnot enough top talent.ā€Ā 

Similarly, Dr Puthucheary noted that the decision on a two-party political system is ultimately up to Singaporeans. He believes that it depends on how people make their vote and what are the proposals made by the political party.

Meanwhile, Mr Giam responded to a question on whether a two-party system could result in more racial and religious divisions; in response, he emphasised the need for every political party and candidate to act responsibly and in the interest of the country, stating that having multiple parties does not necessarily balance everything out.Ā 

On the other hand, Ms Poa took a firm stance that a one-party system only worked in the past as it is ā€œtoo riskyā€ and akin to ā€œputting all our eggs in one basketā€.Ā 

4. Three Singapore activists appeal twice-rejected court ruling on gay sex ban

On Monday, three Singapore campaigners, a retired doctor, a DJ, and an LGBT rights advocate, launched an appeal against the High Courtā€™s decision to uphold a law banning sex between men, the latest effort to overturn the colonial-era legislation.Ā 

The three campaigners had challenged the law last year, and the High Court had heard their challenges together.Ā Ā 

The law in question is a holdover from the British rule. While it is rarely enforced in Singapore today, breaking it carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail.

Activists argue that upholding this law jars with Singaporeā€™s increasingly modern and vibrant culture. Conversely, others assert that Singapore remains conservative at heart and is not ready for change.

Retired doctor Roy Tan said that this appeal was made on the grounds that the judge hearing last yearā€™s case was wrong to reject arguments that the legislation breached several articles of the constitution.

These include the right to equality before the law, the right to life and personal liberty, and the right to freedom of expression.

Challenges to the law have been rejected twice, first in 2014 and again last year.


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